More than 3,000 visited the National Museum of Singapore yesterday, as it reopened its permanent galleries after a year-long revamp that cost $10 million.
The six galleries hold over 1,700 artefacts, of which 680 are new. These include a 1959 flexidisc recording of "Majulah Singapura" before it became the National Anthem, a full set of the first national service uniform and a sewing machine used during World War II.
But the museum has also taken care to provide a more immersive experience for the visitors, said its director Angelita Teo. For example, there are mock-ups of a Housing Board flat in the 1960s and an opium den, commonly used by low-wage workers in the 1900s.
"This revamp is an opportunity to update the 2006 redevelopment, building on visitors' feedback over the years and also placing a focus on reaching out to a wider audience," she added.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who opened the galleries and was given a tour which kicks off from the year 1299, said that the exhibits "sign-post the road from independence to First World with defining moments vital to Singapore's survival as a young nation".
"The National Museum revamp tells a more immersive story of our past with new insights, objects and presentation," he added. "It helps us time-travel... to the days of Temasek and Singapura, where orang laut (sea people), traders and fishermen who came from different places lived side by side to eke out a living."
The new exhibits also catalogue Singapore's natural environment.
In an installation called Tree, sounds, smells and images of native flora and fauna found in urban areas, such as gardens, parks and roadsides, are on display towards the end of the first-floor tour.
Other new inclusions include the table on which the British signed the surrender papers and a barrister gown worn by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Ms Pang Shi Min, who visited the museum yesterday, said that she learnt a lot from her guided tour.
The 28-year-old teaching assistant added: "I didn't know much about Singapore's history before Sir Stamford Raffles. The exhibits showed me how life in Singapore, which was just a fishing village in 1299, was like, and make me even more appreciative of the luxuries we have now."
Admission is free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents, and visitors aged six years and below. To celebrate the galleries' re-opening, the museum is holding a weekend carnival where visitors can answer questions for traditional treats such as kueh tutu.
They can also play games such as guessing game tikam tikam or kick a feathered shuttlecock around. A mock street-side library has also been set up to show visitors how people borrowed books in the past.