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History comes alive at the re-opened National Museum of Singapore

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Filled with interactive exhibits that engage little ones’ minds, the newly re-opened National Museum of Singapore is a great way to beat the haze!

Thanks to #sghaze, we’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time indoors. I despise malls and my Preschooler is not fond of indoor play spaces, so we have been exploring Singapore’s many museums. This past weekend, we visited The National Museum of Singapore’s re-opened permanent galleries: the Singapore History Gallery, the Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years galleries, and the Goh Seng Choo Gallery.


Level One’s Singapore History gallery charts the history of the island from 1299 to present day with exhibits “Singapura (1299 to 1818)”, “Crown Colony (1819 to 1941)”, “Syonan-To (1942 to 1945)” and “Singapore (1946 to present)”. One Level Two you’ll find “Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years”. These two galleries house over 1,700 artifacts (40 percent of which are on display for the first time), from the Singapore Stone, to a fully operational replica of a Japanese tank used in World War II, to a three-speed bicycle Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received as an 11th birthday present from his paternal grandmother.


The Preschooler wasn’t interested in many of these objects, though I made it a point to show her a bell gifted by Maria Revere Balestier, wife of Joseph Balestier (the first American Consul to Singapore), to the first Church of Saint Andrew (now Saint Andrew’s Cathedral) in 1843. The bell was cast by a foundry associated with her father, famous American patriot and silversmith Paul Revere. There are only 23 surviving Revere bells and this bell is the only one outside the United States.


However, she was keen to traipse around interactive recreations of an early 20th century opium den, a 1960s Housing Board flat, and the Jurong Drive-in Cinema, where she sat in a “car” under a ceiling of “stars” and watched a movie of 1970s Singapore nostalgia.


I love botanical and zoological illustrations, so my personal highlight was the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings at Level Two’s Goh Seng Choo Gallery. Farquhar, Singapore’s first Resident and Commandant from 1819 to 1823, commissioned unidentified Chinese artists to illustrate plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects found in Malacca and Singapore. The Preschooler, a budding naturalist, enjoyed naming the flora and fauna in these paintings.


She also was enchanted, and disgusted, by the galleries’ “scent stations”, Singapore smells produced by a perfume company for the museum, such as “Polluted Singapore River” in the Singapore History Gallery to “Afternoon Tea” in the Modern Colony Gallery. And the stations prompted us to, once #sghaze has lifted, find the other scents (petrichor, breadflower, tembusu) in the real world!


Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 7pm (last admission 6:30pm)

How much: Admission is free for Citizens, Permanent Residents, and visitors ages 6 years and below. All others are $10.00, and students and seniors 60+ (with valid ID) are $5.00.

Tickets include admission to all permanent galleries and exhibitions, and are available from the National Museum Visitor Services counter and SISTIC.

National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897, Tel:(+65) 6332 3659

All images credited to National Museum of Singapore's Permanent Galleries

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