National Museum of Singapore turns 130: 6 things you may not know about the museum

The National Museum of Singapore opened on Oct 12, 1887. It was first known as the Raffles Library and Museum.
The National Museum of Singapore opened on Oct 12, 1887. It was first known as the Raffles Library and Museum.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The National Museum of Singapore (NMS) turns 130 on October 12.

Before it hits the milestone anniversary, here is a look back at the museum's colourful past. 


On Wednesday 12 October 1887 at 5pm, the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Frederick Weld opened the institution, which was then known as the Raffles Library and Museum.


In June 1892, a baby Indian Fin whale was marooned on the shore at Kampong Sa'Batu, south of Malacca. Aware of the Raffles Museum's zoological collection and scientific reputation, the Resident Councillor of Malacca, D. F. A. Hervey, presented it with the 13-metre long skeleton that same year.

It was displayed in the museum from 1907 to 1974 - around when natural history specimens began being transferred out of the museum's collection. It was in line with the museum's shift towards art and ethnographic displays in the 1970s.


In 1918, Dr Karl Richard Hanitsch, the first director of the Raffles Library and Museum embarked on a collections drive for local history material to mark the centenary of Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival in Singapore. This was the first time a local history collection came into existence.


The Museum left its Stamford Road premises to Riverside Point from 2003 to 2006, as it underwent an extensive $132.6 million redevelopment project. The building of a new purpose-built extension saw the excavation of 110,000 cubic metres of soil from Fort Canning Hill - the equivalent of 14 football fields.



The Museum went through a couple of name changes. In 1960, the Raffles Library and Museum was renamed as the National Museum. Then the museum came under the management of the National Heritage Board in 1993 and was renamed the Singapore History Museum. Following a three-year redevelopment from 2003 to 2006, the museum returned to its Stamford Road premises as the National Museum of Singapore.


The museum's ornate 33-step, wrought iron spiral staircase is the sole entrance to the rooftop where maintenance and repair work on the roof are conducted regularly. But it is also rumoured to be the spookiest part of the building and the site of many paranormal stories.

Information courtesy of National Museum of Singapore