The new permanent: a sneak peek at the museum’s revamped galleries

18 09 2015

Much has improved at the National Museum of Singapore since my days as a schoolboy. Then, I thought of it as cold, dark and maybe a little forbidding, a place where, if not for the spiral staircase, the sight of which would induce a spike in the heart rate,  one would be utterly bored to death. The museum these days isn’t just much less forbidding. It has gone far beyond telling history through the display of dimly lit and poorly labelled specimens and artefacts to a place where the history is an experience; and, it promises to get even better when the doors to its permanent galleries, closed for the better part of a year for a revamp, re-opens  this Saturday (19 September 2015).

The National Museum, now a much more welcoming place.

The National Museum, now a much more welcoming place.

The mysterious spiral staircase.

The mysterious spiral staircase.

The revamp, which sees in particular a huge improvement to the layout of the Singapore History Gallery, is summed up by Ms. Angelita Teo, Director of National Museum of Singapore:

With a refreshed layout and updated narrative, visitors can look forward to a more engaging and immersive experience; a bit like stepping back in time to the different periods of our history. Innovative displays, interactive elements and compelling personal stories make history and the artefacts come to life, and through them, we hope that visitors will form a greater emotional connection to the museum and to Singapore’s history.

The Separation Story seen at the new Singapore History Gallery.

The Separation Story seen at the new Singapore History Gallery.

Visitors will be able to contribute their own stories on an interactive map in the Singapore History Gallery’s Global City section. The map contains memories of places in Singapore from the Singapore Memory Project and lesser known facts about Singapore’s global footprints.

Visitors will be able to contribute their own stories on an interactive map in the Singapore History Gallery’s Global City section. The map contains memories of places in Singapore from the Singapore Memory Project and lesser known facts about Singapore’s global footprints.

A large number of artefacts, more than 1,700, include will be on display in the permanent galleries. Many, from the National Collection, would previously have been seen. One that will catch the attention of the visitor is the so-called Singapore Stone, a surviving portion of a sandstone boulder that had been located at the mouth of the Singapore River. The boulder, which was blasted out by the British, bears inscriptions that have not fully been deciphered and is thought to have originated in the days of Temasek or early Singapura. It has been associated with the legend of Badang, a strong man. A tale told in the Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu has Badang winning a challenge by hurling the boulder to the mouth of the river.

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The Singapore Stone (or at least the surviving part of it).

An archaeological find that provides evidence of links in the 14th century.

An archaeological find that provides evidence of links in the 14th century.

Several artefacts from recent times, some never seen before, also make their appearance. These include personal objects of national significance that were either donated or are on loan such as a 1959 flexidisc recording of “Majulah Singapura” and a complete Temasek Green National Service uniform set, the very first to be used by our NS enlistees. The flexidisc features the only known recording of Zubir Said’s original 1958 version of the song that was later to be modified for use as Singapore’s National Anthem. The version was one composed for the Singapore City Council and the flexidisc, a souvenir produced to commemorate the attainment of full self-government in May 1959. The flexidisc was donated to the museum by Mr. Low Kam Hoong, a friend and former colleague (see also a post related to the flexidisc on the Facebook Group “On a Little Street in Singapore“).

Singapore's first National Service Uniform.

Singapore’s first National Service Uniform.

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Stories of war through the telephone.

Stories of war told through the telephone.

In the new galleries, the artefacts are given greater meaning through the use of contextual displays, ambient sounds, multimedia platforms as well as interactive platforms, giving a much more immersive experience to visitors. Another dimension is given to the experience in some cases, where scents, a powerful trigger for memories, supplement the displays. Produced and sponsored by Givaudan, one of the scents recreates that hard to forget stench of the once polluted Singapore River!

Contextual set-up of a HDB Flat.

Contextual set-up of a HDB Flat in the Singapore History Gallery.

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Many of the historical artefacts will be found in the remodelled Singapore History Gallery. With its entrance now located on Level 1, it has been made a lot more accessible. Its now more linear layout also allows a literal walk-through of 700 years of our history as Singapura / Singapore, which begins with a monsoon storm. The winds, responsible for bringing traders and visitors from far and wide to the region, will in the new Singapore History Gallery blow visitors on a journey through the days of Singapura (1299 to 1818), the years of the Crown Colony (1819–1941), the dark days of Syonan-to (1942–1945), and post-war Singapore (1945 to present).

The entrance to the new Singapore History Gallery on Level 1.

The entrance to the new Singapore History Gallery on Level 1.

Abraham Ortelius' 1570 map of the East Indies and a storm greets visitors to the new Singapore History Gallery.

Abraham Ortelius’ 1570 map of the East Indies and a storm greets visitors to the new Singapore History Gallery.

The passing of the storm, a light and sound show over a 1570 map of the East Indies, brings visitors to Singapura at its beginnings, an period of time described in the Sejarah Melayu. The accounts of a Chinese trader Wang Dayuan, also tell us of the links the island may have had to the Middle Kingdom. This is supported by evidence from archaeological excavations in Singapore that visitors will see on display, which also tell us of the links early Singapura may have had to kingdoms in Siam and in India.

Visitors are taken on a voyage of discovery that spans over 700 years.

Visitors are taken on a voyage of discovery that spans over 700 years.

Pages from the Malay Annals.

Pages from the Malay Annals.

14th Century Chinese porcelain unearthed during an archaeological dig.

14th Century Chinese porcelain unearthed during an archaeological dig.

In a year in which we also commemorate 70 years of the end of World War II, the exhibits relating to Syonan-to may be of particular interest. One very significant artefact from the period in the Singapore History Gallery, which is on display during a one-year loan period, is the Surrender Table. The six legged teak table was the one on which the surrender of Singapore to Japan was signed in the boardroom of the Ford Factory at Bukit Timah on 15 February 1942. Donated by the Ford Motor Company of Malaysia to the Australian War Memorial in November 1964, the table is on loan to the National Museum.

The Surrender Table, on loan from the Australian War Memorial.

The Surrender Table, on loan from the Australian War Memorial.

The war years in the Singapore History Gallery.

The war years in the Singapore History Gallery.

Several other exhibits may also be of interest in the Syonan-to section. One recalls Mrs. Elizabeth Choy, a war heroine who was held and tortured by the Kempeitai. The display includes the set of clothes that Mrs. Choy wore during her imprisonment, and also a gold necklace. The necklace was donated by Mrs. Choy’s daughter Bridget and was one given to Mrs. Choy by Lady Daisy Thomas, the wife of Governor Shenton Thomas. A family heirloom, the gift was made by Lady Thomas in gratitude for the help Mrs. Choy had provided Lady Thomas with during the latter’s internment during the occupation.

The clothes worn by war heroine Elizabeth Choy when she was held by the Kempeitai.

The clothes worn by war heroine Mrs. Elizabeth Choy when she was held by the Kempeitai.

A gold necklace, in the shape of a snake. A family heirloom given to Lady Daisy Thomas, the wife of Governor Shenton Thomas, the necklace was given to Elizabeth Choy, as a token of gratitude. Mrs Choy later gave the necklace to her eldest daughter, Bridget, as a present for her 21st birthday.

A gold necklace, in the shape of a snake. A family heirloom given to Lady Daisy Thomas, the wife of Governor Shenton Thomas, the necklace was given to Elizabeth Choy, as a token of gratitude for her help during Lady Thomas’ internment. Mrs Choy later gave this to her eldest daughter, Bridget, as a present for her 21st birthday.

An exhibit that will certainly catch the eye in the Syonan-to section is a replica of a Type 95 Ha Go Japanese tank. The light, fast and highly manoeuvrable tanks were widely deployed during the Second World War and used in the Battle for Singapore. The replica is one of four constructed for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s television mini-series, The Pacific (2010).

A replica of a Type 95 Ha Go Japanese tank, one of 4 constructed for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s television mini-series, The Pacific (2010).

A replica of a Type 95 Ha Go Japanese tank, one of 4 constructed for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s television mini-series, The Pacific (2010).

A view through a Changi Prsion door.

A view through a Changi Prsion door.

Anchor from the RMS Empress of Asia troopship, which was bombed and sunk.

Anchor from the RMS Empress of Asia troopship, which was bombed and sunk.

We are also reminded of the scourge of opium addiction.

We are also reminded of the scourge of opium addiction.

A revolver seized during the tumultuous 1950s.

A revolver seized during the tumultuous 1950s.

The period of self-government.

The period of self-government.

The road to nationhood.

The road to nationhood.

The period of industrialisation seen in the Singapore History Gallery.

The period of industrialisation seen in the Singapore History Gallery.

The war years also feature in one of the four Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years galleries (previously the Living Galleries) located on Level 2, in a gallery dedicated to Surviving Syonan. The four galleries will allow visitors to immerse themselves in four more important periods of Singapore’s recent history, in part, through the experiences of those who lived through them.

Surviving Syonan.

Surviving Syonan.

Small business licenses issued during the Syonan years,

Small business licenses issued during the Syonan years,

A bicycle license.

A bicycle license.

The occupation years are ones in which visitors can see how hope and love could overcome despair and uncertainty. A glimpse is also provided in the three other galleries into life in the 1920s–1930s in the Modern Colony, the turbulent 1950s and 1960s in Growing Up, as well as into the years that shaped the new Singapore and Singapore identity in the 1970s and the 1980s in Voices of Singapore.

A father's tribute to a son who passed on during the Syonan years.

A father’s tribute to a son who passed on during the Syonan years.

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The Modern Colony Gallery.

The Modern Colony Gallery.

A baby carrier used by amahs.

A baby carrier used by amahs.

A display of women's shoes in Modern Colony - a reflection of the evolving identities of women in early 20th century Singapore.

A display of women’s shoes in Modern Colony – a reflection of the evolving identities of women in early 20th century Singapore.

Toy swords - commonly sold at the pasar malams that accompanied wayangs.

Toy swords – commonly sold at the pasar malams that accompanied wayangs.

The zoetrope in the Growing Up gallery, inspired by stories of female Olympians in the 1950s.

The zoetrope in the Growing Up gallery, inspired by stories of female Olympians in the 1950s.

Games of a forgotten age in Growing Up.

Games of a forgotten age in Growing Up.

A rather interesting display in Voices of Singapore, one many in my generation will identify with is an installation that attempts a recreation of Singapore’s first and only ever drive-in cinema, Remembering the Jurong Drive-in cinema. The installation features a video montage by Singaporean filmmaker Eva Tang, who is inspired by the different film genres and themes popular with Singaporean audiences in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jurong Drive-in.

Jurong Drive-in.

Familiar landmarks in the Pursuit of Leisure TV Wall Projection in the Voices of Singapore gallery.

Familiar landmarks in the Pursuit of Leisure TV Wall Projection in the Voices of Singapore gallery.

Cameras and film.

Cameras and film.

The last of the permanent galleries will be found at the Goh Choo Seng Gallery on Level 2. Here, we find Desire and Danger, which aims to show how fine a line sometimes exists between the two in the natural environment. The gallery features a selection of drawings from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, which is combined with scents and specimens that tell us of the complex and often uneasy relationship between man and nature.

Desire and Danger.

Desire and Danger?

A puffer fish specimen.

A puffer fish specimen.

Scents and in-sensibilities.

Scents and in-sensibilities.

If the immersion into history starts to get too heavy this re-opening weekend, there will be distractions on offer at the Opening Weekend Carnival that the museum is also holding. The carnival, from 10 am to 6 pm on 19 and 20 September, will provide some excitement to both the young and the old, including a chance to relive the good old days through once familiar childhood favourites such as kacang puteh, ting ting candy, sng bao and tikam-tikam. Also to look out for are special guided tours of the Singapore History Gallery this weekend. Information on this, the re-opening and more on the carnival can be found at the National Museum of Singapore’s Opening Weekend Page.

The Level 2 galleries.

The Level 2 galleries.


Opening and Admission Information:

The permanent galleries will be opened from 10am to 7pm (last admission 6.30pm) daily.

Admission is free for Citizens, Permanent Residents (unless otherwise stated) and visitors aged 6 years and below.

Otherwise, these admission fees apply: Adults $10, Students & Seniors aged 60 above with valid ID $5.

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

Beyond opening weekend, guided tours will commence from 3 October 2015 for which visitors can enquire at the Visitor Services counter for guided tours.






Royston Tan’s Old Romances《老情人》

7 12 2012

In a world that is changing too fast, it is often only the memories of places dear to us that we are able to cling on to, memories in which we often discover what we have left behind. As with its forerunner Old Places, Royston Tan’s seeks to discover that through the words of the man on the street, and discover in each, “an old lover’s story waiting to be untold”. The stories explore many places in which we as Singaporeans may have collective memories in, and of which in the words of the director “almost 50% will be gone by the time we premiere this”. The premiere of Old Romances and a screening of Old Places will take place over the weekend of 15/16 Dec 2012 at the National Museum. More information can be found listed below. Tickets for the screenings cost S$11 (including handling fees) or S$10 for Senior Citizens and are available at TICKETBOOTH. DVDs will be on sale on both days with autograph signing sessions arranged. Part of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the charity Action for Aids.

Barber Shop 2


Carnival 3

Film Schedule

15 December 2012, Saturday

2.30pm: Old Romances followed by Q&A

16 December 2012, Sunday

2.30pm: Old Places followed by Q&A
4.30pm: Old Romances followed by Q&A

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Ticketing Information

S$11 per ticket (includes handling fees)
S$10 per ticket (Senior Citizen concession, includes handling fees)

Tickets can be purchased at TICKETBOOTH outlets or on the TICKETBOOTH website www.ticketbooth.com.sg

Venue

National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre, Basement


About Old Romances《老情人》

“Old places are like old lovers to me, you never forget them.” – Royston Tan

Comic Shop 2

Executive Producer: Royston Tan

Directors: Royston Tan, Eva Tang and Victric Thng

67 min / Documentary

Synopsis

There is romance in every corner we turn. In this sequel to the documentary, Old Places, Old Romances takes us on a journey to experience Singapore through the collective voices of ordinary Singaporeans.

Through their voices, we hear personal stories from members of the public who shared their anecdotes on radio. Everyday spaces come alive with these special memories, which are bonded forever with these places.

Old Romances is a journal of love letters to places that we grew up with.

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Director’s Statement

“What triggered me to do Old Romances was the great public response for wanting a sequel to Old Places. I believe that in every old place, there is always an old lover’s story waiting to be untold. How great is it to have this story told by ordinary Singaporeans from all walks of life. I received an email recently from a lady who was taking the MRT and as she looked out of the train at everything that seemed so familiar, they were really places that were depleting by the minute. It’s almost like we Singaporeans are suffering from the dementia of our society due to our rapid urban development. With this, I feel the need to archive all the stories and old places of which almost 50% will be gone by the time we premiere this.”

KTM 7

Places featured

  • Tanjong Pagar Canteen at Tanjong Pagar
  • Lee Kee Book Company at Chinatown
  • Lim Kay Khee Optical House at Balestier Road
  • Carnival Beauty Salon at East Coast Road
  • Sembawang Hill Estate Taxi Service at Sembawang Hill
  • Kim Choo Kueh Chang at East Coast Road
  • Chop Wah Hin Sheet Metal Works at Balestier Road
  • Seng Hong Coffeeshop at Lengkok Bahru
  • Gim Joo Textile Co Pte Ltd at Arab Street
  • New Century Record Co. at Tanjong Katong
  • Poh Onn Tong Medical Shop at Tanglin Hall
  • Thin Huat Provision Shop at Tanglin Hall
  • Hong San See Temple at Mohd Sultan
  • Kong Tee Peng Temple at Chinatown
  • Lao Sai Tao Yuan Teochew Wayang
  • Sliat Walk Estate
  • Feng Huang Puppet Troupe
  • Yet Con Chicken Rice at Purvis Street
  • Bukit Merah View Hair Dressing Salon at Bukit Merah
  • Old Playgrounds
  • Pearl Bank Apartments at Chinatown
  • St Joseph Church at Victoria Street
  • Japanese Cemetery at Chuan Hoe Avenue
  • Cashin House at Lim Chu Kang
  • St John Island
  • Union Farm Eating House at Clementi Road
  • Tan Moh Hong Reptile Skin & Crocodile Farm at Upper Serangoon Road
  • Klins Dog Unit at Ulu Pandan Road
  • Bukit Timah Saddle Club at Bukit Timah
  • Colbar Eating House at Whitchurch Road
  • Serangoon Bus Interchange at Serangoon Road
  • Teo Seng Heng Provision Shop at West Coast Road
  • New Chay Hong Beauty Parlour at Lorong Lulian
  • Lo Song Leng Dentist at Balestier Road
  • Wong Yiu Nam Medical Hall at Chinatown
  • Shashlik Restaurant at Far East Shopping Center
  • Upper Seletar Reservoir at Upper Seletar
  • Kovan Coffeeshop at Simon Road
  • Thye Moh Chan Cake House at Geylang Road

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About Old Places 《老地方》

Remembering forgotten places in Singapore through the eyes of ordinary people

Executive Producer: Royston Tan
Directors: Royston Tan, Eva Tang and Victric Thng
77 min / Documentary

“I want to archive these places before they are lost forever.” – Royston Tan

Synopsis

Old Places shows us the oft-forgotten yet almost immediately familiar areas in Singapore through the eyes of ordinary people. Prior to the production, members of the public were invited to call in to the radio to recount their significant memories of places in Singapore – places that will soon disappear or be redeveloped.

These personal stories come alive through the callers’ narration and the stunning visuals that capture the nostalgia and hidden beauty of the places. Re-discover Singapore and journey to places like a playground in Toa Payoh, a barbershop at Commonwealth Avenue, Capitol cinema, and an unassuming bakery in Whampoa.

Old Places celebrates personal stories of joy, love or loss, and weaves them into a tapestry of memories amounting to a collective and yet typical story of life in Singapore.

Old Places first screened on Okto on the eve of National Day 2010 where it recorded the highest ratings for any documentary screened that year, and received an overwhelming number of requests from the public for a repeat screening, which was subsequently arranged by Okto on 24 August.

Past screenings

Old Places was screened at the Esplanade from 13 July to 26 August 2012 in the Our Places, Our Stories exhibition.

It has also been shown once at the National Library, five times on television (even till now where they cut the film into 10-minute snippets), twice in schools for National Day Parade last year (once in SOTA and once in NTU), and had one community screening.

After the National Museum, it will next screen at a community museum in Taman Jurong in January 2013, organised by the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Art Museum.

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Directors’ Bios

Royston Tan

A graduate from Temasek Polytechnic, Royston Tan’s films have screened worldwide at film festivals and received over 75 awards. He has made 4 feature length films and continues to work within the short film genre when the right idea comes along. Tan is one of the most influential filmmakers locally. In 2002, the National Arts Council honoured him with the Young Artist Award. In 2004, Time Magazine cited Tan as one of the ‘Top 20 Asian Heroes’. In 2010, Tan received the Singapore Youth Award, the highest youth accolade from the National Youth Council.

During his days as a student, Tan won the NTU All-School Students’ Photo-Videographic Competition: First prize for Music Video for Remains (1995) and the UTV International Book Prize for Adam.Eve.Steve (1997).

After graduation, Tan received the Best Short Film and Special Achievement Award for the short film Sons in 2000. In 2001, his short film Mother received the Voice Award at The Substation’s Singapore Short Film Festival. He has won two awards at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival: the Canal+ Award 2005 for Cut and the Grand Prix for Monkey Love in 2007.

Tan remains one of the few filmmakers in Singapore who straddles both the commercial film world and the international film festival circuits. His film 881 grossed over S$3 millions, making it the top grossing Asian film in Singapore in 2007. In 2009, he was invited to be part of the Jury at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Eva Tang

Born in Singapore, Eva Tang has lived and studied in Hong Kong, London and China. When she was offered a scholarship from the Singapore Film Commission, she resigned from her journalist job of 5 years and went to study film. Tang was the first Singaporean filmmaker who had her student short selected by the Venice Film Festival in 2002.

Eva is a MA (Directing) graduate of the National Film and Television School. Her student film Londres – London won the Governor Award of the Akira Kurosawa Memorial Short Film Competition. It also won Best Artistic Film in Shanghai, Jury Recommendation at the Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards, and was nominated for Best Short Film at Hawaii and Bangkok International Film Festivals. The National Gallery of Art (USA) also picked it up for screening. Her film, Solitary Moon was awarded the First Prize at The Great Gatsby Video Challenge, part of the Singapore Arts Festival 2010.

Eva was selected for the 2009 Berlinale Talent Campus, 2010 Torino FilmLab training and 2010 Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy led by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Victric Thng

Cited as “one of the new wave directors to look out for” by The Straits Times, Victric Thng’s filmmaking career started when he made a 3-minute short film, Locust (2003). The film won the Renault Samsung Prize in the Busan Asian Short Film Festival, Best Asean Short Film Silver Award at the Malaysian Video Awards and also screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Locust remains one of the festivals’ most highly requested films today. He has since made 11 other short films including more recently, The Mole (2007), which won first prize at the Panasonic-MDA Digital Film Fiesta 2007, and Twogether (2007), which screened at the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in 2009. In 2009, he executive produced the short film series Infinity which premiered at the 22nd Singapore International Film Festival. He was commissioned by the National Arts Council in 2009 and 2010 to direct a film under the dance/film programme, as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. A Day Without Wind, which was the dance film commissioned in 2009, travelled to the Asian Hot Shots Festival 2010 in Berlin, Germany.

He has been invited to jury regionally at festivals including in Macau and in Singapore, the 7th Fly By Night Video Challenge 2009. In 2009, John Badalu in Jakarta curated a retrospective of his works.

Sembawang Taxi 2


All photographs courtesy of Royston Tan









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