World War II exhibition to reopen on Feb 16 at former Ford Factory

SINGAPORE - A new permanent World War II exhibition will open to the public on Feb 16 at the former Ford Factory at Upper Bukit Timah.

The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) showcase has been renamed Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies. It follows a year-long revamp.

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim who toured the facility on Thursday (Feb 9), said NAS has produced a "very compelling" story capturing the experience of both civilians and the various military forces at play.

He said the gallery, previously known as Memories at Old Ford Factory, serves as a reminder that peace and harmony should not be taken for granted.

"As a small nation we always have to be on our guard and recognise that security is important and that everyone has a role to play," he said.

The gallery has been divided into four zones. The first sets the scene of pre-war Singapore and tells the history of Ford Factory when it was the first motorcar assembly in South-east Asia in 1941.

It moves on to the fall of Singapore in the next section and highlights Japanese aggression and the weak British defences.

The third is focused on the period when Singapore was renamed during the Japanese Occupation as Syonan-to or Light of the South.

The last zone discusses the aftermath of war.

Last year (2016), the NAS, an institution under the National Library Board, decided to revamp its museum to make it more dynamic and exciting, moving away from a cluttered display of photographs and text-heavy explanations.

Curator Fiona Tan, an assistant archivist at the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) said the revamped gallery aims to show the "diverse experiences and perspectives" of the war and occupation - through the use of more artefacts and newly conserved records.

They will also have access to more oral history records presented both in terms of quotes and excerpts in audio projections and multimedia screens.

The NAS held a public collection drive in March seeking artefacts from 1937 to 1954. It received more than 400 items. For instance, private collector Lim Shao Bin shared a 1939 Japanese map of "Singapore Town", which marks out 83 key areas such as municipal buildings and Japanese shipping lines.

The map helped the Japanese to identify key government and commercial buildings such as the Japanese Embassy and the Supreme Court. It showed how prepared the Japanese were to invade Singapore.

Other artefacts that will go on display include export receipts of goods to Malaya from China which were issued during the pre-war period. These were clearly labelled as "national goods" to show they were not of Japanese origin, reflecting the sentiment on the ground.