The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in Singapore, with a long history dating back to 1887. You may thought, “What’s there in a museum of over a hundred years old?”
It can be easily passed off as an old museum with dusty national archives piling high and deep… but hey, I can guarantee it’s more than that!
We visited the National Museum of Singapore and were brought onto a journey of discovery. We somehow know what we are going to expect, but the whole visit exceeds our expectation!
The museum separated its exhibitions into two main parts: Singapore History Gallery and Singapore Living Galleries, which is further divided into 4 themes: Fashion, Food, Film & Wayang and Photography. Each exhibition has its own speciality, but we won’t spoil your experience by revealing it all here!
But we will share our personal experience walking through the galleries and single out the exceptional exhibits! Then, we’ll leave the rest of the exploration to you!
Walking through Singapore History
Though Singapore is a relatively young country, it’s history can be dated back centuries ago since its colonial days. And no one can forget the person who first discovered Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles.
What you see here is a painting of him. Another of Sir Stamford Raffles portrait can be found at Asian Civilisations Museum. And here’s the famous statue of him along Boat Quay.
The documents you see below is the treaty signed in 1819 in Singapore, and that marks the day the British gains a foothold on the island. From there on, they had transformed this little island into a thriving trading port.
It was also during the colonial time, Singapore was a popular trading hub, when the exchange of goods such as ceramics and textiles was a common scene along Singapore River.
Of course, you won’t see these happen in today’s Singapore River, which is more of a popular tourist location than trading hub!
Below is the portrait of Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen. He’s the man who topple the centuries-long imperialism in China. But hey! What has he got to do with Singapore history?
That’s what you would love to find out! During the early 1900s, he stayed in Singapore, where he sought support from fellow Chinese for the uprising in China.
Also, in 1927, a clash between KMT (Sun’s party) supporters and the police broke out in Singapore at Kreta Ayer, that was later called the Kreta Ayer incident. Interested? Be there to find out more?
One of the most horrifying period in Singapore’s history is none other than the 3 years and 8 months under the rule of the Japanese during the World War II.
The National Museum of Singapore walks you though this journey with exhibits and stories left behind by the survivors.
See those bicycles?
That was probably the best mode of transport for the Japanese soldiers when they entered Singapore, riding all the way from Malaya.
As we walk through the galleries, we were also told stories of how the outnumbered Japanese soldiers employ guerilla strategies to win their battles with the British soldiers.
I would say the exhibition describing the Japanese Occupation is probably the one that would keep you ears open all the time, when you listen tostories after stories behind each exhibit.
We personally spent 1 whole hour walking through the Japanese Occupation gallery!
There was also a time when the Japanese tried to spread its culture and ideology during its rule, by instructing the use of Japanese textbooks in schools, and hanging of Japanese flags at every house.
*Note: If you want to find out more about Japanese Occupation in Singapore during WWII, and the personal life stories and experiences of individuals then, then you must visit the Changi Chapel and Museum.
Look at the poster below. Without understanding the Japanese words, and just by looking at its image, what do you understand by it?
While the Japanese were seen as villains during that period, there was one by the name of Mamoru Shinozaki, who helped save the lives of many Chinese and Eurasians during the Occupation, by issuing government passes.
He was known as the “Japanese Schindler”. (Picture below)
Bringing it forward, the Japanese Occupation ended the day the Japanese surrendered and conceded defeat in World War II. And that was then the British returned!
While Singaporeans celebrated the return of the British, many resented the day the British troops left the colony to fend for itself, against the Japanese. Thoughts of independence started to surface. But the route to independencewas not as easy as it seems.
It was marred by riots after riots. But there was one man who overcome all odds to lead Singapore en route to independence. The rest is history! The image below shows the day Lee Kwan Yew won his first election in 1959.
As you see, Singapore really struggled to become what it is today. There’s a lot more on Singapore’s development, but I won’t go to that here! I don’t wanna spill all the beans!
Other than the exhibits and artifacts of Singapore’s history, the National Museum of Singapore is also a guardian of 11 National Treasures! Like the 2 paintings below!
The one you see above is the Portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas, the British Governor of Singapore before the outbreak of the Pacific War. It was painted by famous figure painter in pre-war China, Xu Beihong in 1939.
The one below is the Portrait of Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham, the first Resident General of the Federated Malay States, from 1896 to 1901. It was painted by the celebrated portrait artist, John Singer Sargent.
There are 9 more national treasures in the museum, and they are identified by a ‘star’ beside it. Identify them when you’re there!
The National Museum of Singapore, because of its iconic and elegant architectural design, has attracted many people to get a snap of it! It’s also said to be a popular location for wedding couples to get their wedding shots!
Of course, we also had our fair share of cam-whoring!
We’ve said much here, but that’s not all about the museum. There’s still the Singapore Living Galleries, and special exhibitions which might interest you too!
How to get there?
You can reach the National Museum of Singapore from the nearest MRT stations: 5-minute walks from Bras Basah and Dhoby Ghaut MRT Stations, 10-minute walk from City Hall MRT Station.
For specific directions to the National Museum of Singapore from where you’re at, click here!
Singapore History Gallery:
10am – 6pm daily
Last admission 5.30pm
Singapore Living Galleries:
10am – 8pm daily
Free admission from 6pm – 8pm daily
Last admission at 7.30pm.
Student (tourist with valid student pass): $5
NS Regular & Senior (tourist 60 years and above)
Singapore History Gallery
Mon to Fri – 11am, 2pm
Sat & Sun – 11.30am, 2pm & 3.30pm
Mon, Sat & Sun – 2.30pm
Mon to Fri – 10.30am
Every first Sat of the month – 1.30pm
Singapore Living Galleries
Mon, Sat & Sun – 11am & 4pm
*Each guided tour is estimated to be 60 minutes. Tours are unavailable on public holidays and open house days.
Yay or Nay?
The National Museum of Singapore uncovers many untold stories of Singapore and showcases exhibits which are dear to Singapore, like some national treasures that you won’t see elsewhere! This century-old National Museum is also worth a visit it’s your first time in Singapore.
If you’re into intense research about Singapore history, this is probably the best place outside of Wikipedia.
If you’re looking for a scenic place for photo shoot (for wedding or graduation shots), the National Museum can be on the top of your list of venues. Photographers will love its colonial architectural design!
Other than Singapore history, there are many other special exhibitions that may interest you too.
However, if Singapore history doesn’t interest you, it can be quite boring (Really!). Of course, if you’re not a museum-type of person, there’s nothing else to do at the National Museum. If you’re in Singapore only for a short few days, you can also visit vibrant towns like Chinatown or Little India to experience more of Singapore, than through the exhibits here.
What Say You?
We had a splendid time at the National Museum, listening to stories after stories of the events that occurred in Singapore. We’re never tired of it. In fact, it’s the stories that kept us engaged and captivated throughout!
So, will you be there for the stories?
Share with us your trip to the National Museum below!
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