SINGAPORE - A cute robot cat is invading the National Museum of Singapore until Dec 27.
Doraemon might not seem an obvious programming choice for a history museum, but director Chung May Khuen points out that the Japanese cartoon character is a beloved pop culture icon in Singapore.
Noting that the show has been dubbed into Malay and is still broadcast on television today, the self-confessed Doraemon fan says: "Singaporeans have been watching Doraemon from the 1980s. It does play a part in our growing up years."
Besides a line of Doraemon figures marching across the museum's front lawn, fans of the cartoon character can snap Instagrammy selfies at booths scattered through the building. There will be, of course, an Anywhere Door for fans to imagine themselves transported to a destination of their choice. Devotees can also pick up limited edition merchandise designed by local lifestyle brand Supermama.
There will also be an interactive trail online, called Let's Jalan-Jalan!, which will be launched on Saturday (Oct 31) where armchair explorers can learn fun facts about 14 neighbourhoods with an island-wide hunt.
The exhibition, Doraemon's Time-Travelling Adventures In Singapore, has been in the making for a year and a half, and was in danger of being cancelled because of the complications posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Ms Chung, 46, says the team stuck with the project: "Because of the pandemic, it's even more important we have Doraemon at the museum. I can imagine the happiness we give to our audience, especially at this difficult time."
Light relief aside, there is a more serious intent behind this crowd-pleasing move. The installation is in line with the museum's new positioning as a people's museum. Ms Chung says beyond just presenting a cute icon, the Doraemon installation has been curated with highlights of the museum's collections from the 1960s through to the 1980s: "It is the merging of the contemporary with the historical aspect. We mark the important milestones."
The pandemic has prompted the museum to think seriously about the institution's role and function, she adds: "We do have a very important role in various aspects of people's life. The museum is not just about Singapore history or history of civilisations, but our social role.
"Increasingly, as we look at the depressing conditions and the circumstances, we also think about how the museum can be a social space for people, how it is related to the well being and the mental health of our audience."
What: Doraemon's Time-Travelling Adventures In Singapore
Where: National Museum of Singapore
When: Till Dec 27
Admission: Free for Singaporeans and permanent residents