In Pictures: Highlights from revamped National Museum galleries

SINGAPORE - A good chunk of the National Museum of Singapore has been closed for almost a year for a much-needed overhaul. The budget for the revamp, which also includes non-gallery upgrades such as the reinstallation of Suzanne Victor's popular swinging chandeliers, is $10 million. 

On Monday (Aug 17), the Museum invited members of the media for a sneak peek at the revamped exhibits for the permanent galleries as well as the Goh Seng Choo Gallery on the second floor. 


The permanent galleries are four spaces previously dedicated to Fashion, Food, Film and Photography. When the museum reopens on Sept 19, however, these spaces will be dedicated to depicting Life In Singapore: The Past 100 Years. 

The new displays will tie in more closely to the Singapore History Gallery, which will also be revamped. 

The galleries will be themed along various eras of Singapore's history in the 20th century, and comprise Modern Colony (1925 - 1935); Surviving Syonan (1942 - 1945); Growing Up (1955 - 1965); and Voices In Singapore (1975 - 1985). 

Here is a look at some of the exhibits on display. 

Modern Colony

This portrait of Song Ong Siang, the first Chinese in Singapore to be knighted by the British, is the first exhibit in the Modern Colony gallery. The portrait underwent a five-month restoration. Mr Song was a community leader and lawyer who was a passionate advocate of education. He helped set up Singapore Chinese Girls' School. 

Western outfits and a travelling trunk are among the artefacts in the gallery. 

A selection of women's footwear, ranging from the bound feet cloth shoes to Western heels, show the diversity of the populace. 

Elegant cheongsam and gowns that were worn by middle-class women of the era. 

This gorgeous glass table centrepiece in the Art Nouveau style  was purchased for the museum's collection. According to the curator, similar pieces were showcased in department store Robinsons' catalogue.

A silver martini shaker and cup set that would have been used by its expatriate owners at lavish cocktail parties. 

Surviving Syonan

Facsimiles of crumbling walls evoke the atmosphere of wartime Singapore and the artefacts here reflect the experiences of ordinary people who had to learn a new language - Japanese - and deal with wartime deprivations such as rationing. 

Some of the posters of  Japanese produced propaganda films which were shown in Singapore cinemas during the Occupation.

One of the most fascinating exhibits on display in this gallery is this Chinese dialect speaker's Japanese homework. The Chinese characters have to be read in Hokkien, and the Japanese words are phoneticise for this Hokkien speaker who is learning the Japanese language. 

This wedding basin belongs to a Chinese couple, now in their 90s, who got married a few months into the war. The basin is traditionally part of a Chinese bride's dowry. The couple also shared with the museum their marriage certificate and wedding rings. 

Growing Up

This gallery focuses on the experiences of a kampung childhood, with artefacts ranging from toys and autograph books to school uniforms and a zoetrope inspired by Singapore's first Olympian, athlete Tang Pui Wah. 

Toys from a bygone era - from tin toys to paper dolls - line one wall of the gallery. 

Voices In Singapore 

The Voices In Singapore gallery focuses on the arts and culture scene in Singapore from 1975 to 1985, the economic boom years of Singapore's history. Included in the displays are posters from various arts performances, as well as programmes from the early hits of Singapore's then-nascent theatre scene. 

Tucked in the back of the gallery is a recreation of movie drive-ins. You can sit in the cars and watch a montage of archival clips put together by local film-maker Eva Tang.

Goh Seng Choo Gallery

The Goh Seng Choo Gallery which hosts the William Farquhar Collection Of Natural History Drawings has also been given a makeover. 

Besides the rotating exhibits drawn from the Farquhar collection, there are also specimens borrowed from the Lee Kong Chian Museum of Natural History.