The National Museum of Singapore
is a national museum in Singapore and the oldest museum in Singapore. Its history dates back to 1849 when it was started as a section of a library at Singapore Institution. After several relocations, the Museum was relocated to its permanent site at Stamford Road
at the Museum Planning Area in 1887.
The Museum is one of the four national museums in the country, the other three being the two Asian Civilisations Museums at Empress Place Building
and Old Tao Nan School
, and the Singapore Art Museum
. The museum focuses on exhibits related to the history of Singapore. The Museum was named the National Museum of Singapore in 1965. For a brief period between 1993 and March 2006, it was known as the Singapore History Museum, before reverting to its previous name. The Museum underwent a three-and-a-half-year restoration and reopened on December 2, 2006, with the Singapore History Gallery
opening on December 8 of the same year.
The revamped National Museum was officially opened by former President of Singapore S R Nathan and Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang on 7 December 2006.
The museum was established in 1849 by the then Singapore Institution Committee. It was called the Raffles Library and Museum and it exhibited items of historical and archeological value in Singapore and Asia
. The museum was part of an establishment of a public repository of knowledge of Malayan in a school, museum and library. This objective can be traced to an 1823 meeting called by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, to discuss a revival of the region's cultural heritage. The museum occupied a section of the library of the Singapore Institution, later became the Raffles Institution. In 1874, the museum moved to the Town Hall (now known as the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall
). However, due to the growing collection in the museum, it moved back to the Singapore Institution in 1876 situated at the new wing of the institution.
The museum will have a permanent 2,800 m² gallery space at the new glass clad building within a glass rotunda known as the Singapore History Gallery. It will feature the history of Singapore from the 14th century in a story-telling approach. Images and film can be projected on its 15-metre high cylindrical walls. There will be a narration of the history and display of artistic expressions of the history. Other permanent exhibitions include the Singapore Living Galleries
which will feature exhibits of photography, cuisine, film, fashion and other lifestyle artifacts.
A ramp spiral in the new building leads down to an exhibition space holding the nation's treasures which includes the Singapore Stone and 14th century gold ornaments unearthed from nearby Fort Canning
Hill in 1928. There will be a 250-seat auditorium known as The Mesh for talks, lectures and workshops for the young and old at the Fort Canning entrance. It will have retail facilities as well as a cafe and a restaurant at the Stamford Road block of the building. Elevators and escalators have been constructed to facilitate the disabled to have access to the museum. An area will feature classrooms and outreach programmes. A vehicular entrance can be accessed by Fort Canning Road at the new building. In the basement, there is a column-free 1,200 m² exhibition gallery for temporary exhibits. It has insulated walls without windows and the space is climatically controlled to protect the exhibits from light and heat or humidity changes.
A resource centre will be housed in the building which will contain old books, photographs, negatives and stamps for public viewing. National Museum introduced a new wireless technology which allow automatic playing of audio and visual material when visitors enter designated zones. The museum has held several temporary exhibitions before its official opening which include a film festival and a men's fashion show, during which the main foyer will feature nude male mannequins.
The museum used to house a vast collection of zoological items, but were transferred to the National University Of Singapore
(NUS) and other museums in the Commonwealth. It currently has eleven precious artefacts, namely the Singapore Stone, the Gold Ornaments of the Sacred Hill from East Java, Dagguerreotype of Singapore Town which was one of the earliest photographs of Singapore, the will of Munshi Abdullah, the portrait of Frank Athelstane Swettenham, the hearse of Tan Jiak Kim, a Peranakan coffin cover, the mace of the City of Singapore commemorating King George VI's raising of the island's status to a city in 1951, the Xin Sai Le puppet stage, William Farquhar's drawings of flora and fauna and the portrait of Shenton Thomas, who was the former governor of Singapore. Rocks from the nearby Fort Canning Hill were used to create two sculptures commissioned from Cultural Medallion-winner Han Sai Por.
National Museum was designed in Neo-Palladian and Renaissance style and consists of two rectangular parallel blocks, with a dome at the front of the building. Its architects were Henry McCallum who designed the original version and J.F. McNair who designed the scaled down version of the building. The building has two rotundas, a new glass-clad rotunda at the rear area of the building. Its glass rotunda is a cylindrical shaped building which is made up of two drums, with the outer one made of glass which sheathes an inner one made of wire mesh. Black out curtains has the same length of the inner drum with images projected on sixteen projectors in the day. The curtains are drawn after sunset, and projection can be beamed out through the glass to get a view of the city. Coats of arms are found on the building's front.