Two museums closing many areas for big revamps

The National Museum of Singapore (above) and the Asian Civilisations Museum (below) will undergo makeovers for most of next year.
The National Museum of Singapore (above) and the Asian Civilisations Museum (below) will undergo makeovers for most of next year.PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI, ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM
The National Museum of Singapore (above) and the Asian Civilisations Museum (below) will undergo makeovers for most of next year.
The National Museum of Singapore (above) and the Asian Civilisations Museum (below) will undergo makeovers for most of next year.PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI, ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM

National Museum, ACM actions during S'pore's 50th anniversary upset some

Heritage lovers have expressed disappointment after hearing that two of Singapore's popular museums will be closing many of their exhibits for major revamps through most of next year - the country's 50th anniversary.

Parts of the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) have been closing gradually since last month. These include its History Gallery, four Living Galleries and the Goh Seng Choo space featuring the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.

It will have only one major temporary exhibition called Singapura: 700 Years, which opens next month and runs until the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, up to four of the Asian Civilisations Museum's (ACM) 11 galleries will be closed at any one time during a year-long revamp which started at the Empress Place building in late June.

Heritage enthusiast and naval architect Jerome Lim said of the NMS: "It's a focal point for Singapore's development, so it will be a pity that it will be closed during the nation's jubilee."

Tour guide Geraldene Lowe, 75, said: "There will be some impact on visitorship patterns. Older visitors with an interest in our museums, who aren't just here to shop, might miss out."

Hong Kong tourist Kevin Leung, 21, a student who visited NMS last Thursday, said visitors like himself would be "disappointed" to find it largely closed off for a good part of the year.

NMS director Angelita Teo told The Straits Times that visitors can still learn about the country's history by visiting Singapura: 700 Years.

A condensed version of the 2,200 sq m Singapore History Gallery, it will be in a 1,500 sq m space at the building's basement. Targeted primarily at students, it will have chapters of Singapore's history from the 1300s to 1975.

Ms Teo said the museum, in Stamford Road, will continue to organise activities for visitors to maintain patronage figures.

The museum's makeover was called "timely" by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth at this year's Budget debate.

It said the aim is to ensure that the museum celebrates "the multiple voices in the nation's historical narrative and the many facets of our multicultural everyday heritage".

A total of $35 million is expected to be spent on both revamps.

ACM director Alan Chong said: "We will focus on ramping up festivals and attractions at ACM and expect visitorship to be steady," he said. "This is an opportunity to do big things for the future."

Tour guide Charlotte Chu, 53, hopes the revamps will have locals in mind, adding: "If you attract locals first, then the tourists who are looking for authentic experiences will come."

Tour guides and agencies said they will take tourists to other museums. Dynasty Travel spokesman Alicia Seah said closures of key attractions take place all the time. "Parts of China's Forbidden City, for instance, were closed before the 2008 Summer Olympics and, while inconvenient, people still visited," she said, referring to the restoration of the Beijing attraction.

Only about 15 to 20 per cent of Dynasty's inbound tourists are keen on museums.

Urban historian and architect Lai Chee Kien believes the closures will cast the limelight on other events in a year "saturated with activities". He predicts that The National Gallery, to open next year, will be a highlight.

Dr Lai said: "There will be many ground-up exhibitions and events organised by civic groups and private organisations because it is a special year, so the absence of these two museums will not dilute the feed of programmes throughout the year."

melodyz@sph.com.sg