Showcase of artefacts from time capsule buried 25 years ago

(From left) The Pingat Pertahanan Medal, awarded to personnel involved in the fight during Konfrontasi; a Yeo's packet drink; the first currency notes, called the Orchid series, issued in 1967.
(From left) The Pingat Pertahanan Medal, awarded to personnel involved in the fight during Konfrontasi; a Yeo's packet drink; the first currency notes, called the Orchid series, issued in 1967.PHOTOS: ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM

A spray of orchids fronted Singapore's first currency notes issued in 1967; familiar sights, including public housing scenes, the Istana and the Singapore River, were on the backs of the notes.

The notes were buried in the civic district 25 years ago by then Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong. They were one of 111 objects encased in a 1.8m-tall steel time capsule which was dug up last December.

Now, 50 of these artefacts are on display at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in a new exhibition called Unearthed: Singapore At 25, which opened yesterday.

The showcase is divided into six themes - the economy, politics, education, defence, security and infrastructure. It will run till Sept 27. Admission is free.

Retired principal Koh Boon Long, 69, who enlisted in national service in 1968, remembers using some of the items on display, including a reservist handbook issued in 1975.

Mr Koh had served as a policeman patrolling the streets around Orchard Road, then the scene of many robberies and gang fights. Koek Road, in particular, was home to several hawker centres and attracted a rough crowd.

"In 1968, the British were about to withdraw and I think the police force came into play because in some ways Singapore was still not stable yet," he said.

Other objects on show include a 1973 photo of famous orang utan Ah Meng, the first two iterations of the Singa Courtesy Lion toys issued in 1982 and a photo of the first Parliament sitting in 1965, which showed People's Action Party leaders such as the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

National Heritage Board chief executive Rosa Daniel said the exhibition is a reminder for people who have used some of the objects and whose lives were affected by some of the Government's policies.

Referring to a Motorola mobile phone from the 1990s and Yeo's soya bean and chrysanthemum tea tetrapacks, Mrs Daniel said: "As for our younger visitors, they can now see for themselves what an old handphone and a packet drink looked like."

Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat, chairman of the SG50 steering committee, launched the exhibition yesterday and said there were plans for a time capsule to mark SG50. It will be opened in 2065.

He said he will invite the public to share their views on what to place in the capsule in about two months.

Mr Heng said of the exhibition: "Looking back today at what we buried 25 years ago allows us to better appreciate our progress as a nation and how our lives have changed and improved."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Showcase of artefacts from time capsule buried 25 years ago'. Print Edition | Subscribe