Getting to know the Lion City, a little more intimately

To get to know someone, spend some time with the person. It applies to the places you visit, to get to know its culture, you immerse yourself in it (so stay longer!). This is one thing packaged tours can’t offer you. Don’t ride, walk and go further than walking the main streets, go off the beaten tracks. And, to get to know its past, we visit their museum.

The museum is where you get to understand the place you visit a little more, it’s history in 3D. Somehow, getting a grasp of what transpired in the past will make you understand the present.

Visiting a museum in every place I visit is always part of my itinerary, if not to appreciate their past, at least enjoy their art, and get to know their masters. It’s one place your pace slows down but the heart’s rate doesn’t necessary follow, wonderful works of art always excite me.

At the ront of the museum: “Sitting Figures” by renowned Taiwanese scultpor, Juming. 

It took the third visit to see the museums in Singapore. The previous couple of trips were military in agenda and pace, the most recent I made sure was not. I inked in my itinerary three museums, and thanks to Sherina Chan of the Singapore Tourism Board in Manila, the visits happened.

My own museum tour was to happen in a single day. Yes, it’s possible. It’s not the Louvre, where a couple of lifetimes is not even enough to fully enjoy and comprehend the artworks they possess.

First on the list- the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) at 93 Stamford Road. How to get there: 10-minute ride or 20-minute walk? I opted to take the bus (where driver was suspicious with the amount I dropped in the fare box. See conversation below.) from my chic address, #5 Raffles Avenue, where Mandarin Oriental is.

Architectural highlights of the museum:

Interior of the most iconic architectural feature of the museum, the Rotunda Dome, & the Glass Passage . 

Museum permanent installation:

Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre by Szanne Victor
8 chandeliers  swinging in sequence or staggered pattern. Magnifique!

From a section of a library in 1849 to the 18,400 square-meter museum housed in its re-developed Neo-Palladian styled edifice, the NMS is the oldest and the biggest museum in Singapore today. After the museum’s three-year extensive restoration and re-opening in 2006, it was awarded the Best Reinvented Attraction Award a year after.

NMS focuses on exhibits related to the history of Singapore presented via cutting-edge modes to redefine conventional museum experience. Not only is the NMS the custodian to eleven National Treasures, it’s also the residence to lauded exhibitions and host to vibrant festivals all year round, making it one of the most exciting spot to visit for locals and tourists alike, at any given time.

Treasures of the National Museum: Coffin Cover, Funeral Hearse of Tan Jiak Kim, Gold Ornaments from the Sacred Hill, Portrait of Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham, Portrait of Sir Shenton Thomas, The Mace of the City of Singapore, The Singapore Stone, The Xin Sai Le Puppet Stage, Will of Munshi Abdullah.

Of all the exhibits, I found the History Gallery most impressive. The gallery lets you explore Singapore from the 14th century to modern period via an Events Path (major events and characters in history) or a Personal Path (history through the eyes of the man on the street). It’s like watching History Channel, but on a 360 degree LCD screen, or the artifacts on display.

Plotting my own history by finally visiting the Singapore museums. Would I end up in this film?
The History Gallery
From the Living Galleries, Film, Photography, Food and Fashion, the Film & Wayang’s “Scripting a New Life” and the Fashion Gallery’s “Shopping for Identity” that pulled me in.

Of the two, it was the Film & Wayang‘s exhibition that proved to be the most stimulating visually and audibly. Viewing the collection- from iconic films and paraphernalia to the intricately sequined Chinese opera costumes, to the puppets and 1930s Southern China puppet stage belonging to a Fujian troupe that visited the Lion City, while listening to cinematic theme songs of the past was truly engaging.

The Living Galleries: Film & Wayang
Unsa’y salida? Ay, gyera.

“Musakto kaha ko diri”
Checking if I’ll fit into any of these intricately embellished  Chinese Opera costumes.

Detail of a opera costume & below, the headdress

“As the men take their place as leaders of the new community, the womenfolk too are expected to be at their side braving the public eye,” Margueritte Rodrigues, Her World, 1962.

Quote, unquote.

When you are confronted with such powerful words in a Fashion Gallery, you know that there is more to fashion than it is perceived to be. The “costumes” in this stylish and provocative room tells the story of Singapore women shopping for identity and shifting identities from the 1950’s to the 1970s, and how their roles in the social, economic and political scene were evolving. Of course, Mary Quant had something to say. “Now you can be a little more natural, and a lot more beautiful.” Nice.

Andy Warhol-ish
Now you can be more beautiful…..
Stepping out of the galleries, I was glad to get to know Singapore a little more intimately. This is one very, very interesting visit to their past and NMS chronicled it perfectly. It’s something we, adults, can really appreciate.

But what about the children? Well, NMS had an activity for the young generation during my visit and when asked what they want to see in a museum, they drew their response. One stood out and that was the best answer for me. It was unsigned- Orange Tree.

Living Galleries: Food

Living Galleries: Photography

Darth Vader & the light sabers from the exhibition “Transforming Landscapes, Improving Lives: 50 Years of Economic Development”


“Luke, I am your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true!”

“I see you have constructed a new light saber. Your skills are complete. Indeed you are powerful as the Emperor has foreseen.”
For more photos & travel stories, visit: http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ & at http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 18, 2011.


Not all photos in this blog appeared in the published version.









Thank you very much to the Singapore National Museum for your accommodation & to Sherina Chan of Singapore Tourism Board Manila for arranging this museum visit.





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