Visitor numbers for museums, heritage centres hit record high

Museums and heritage institutions in Singapore are gaining popularity, with visitor numbers hitting a record high in 2017, according to data from the 2018 Singapore Cultural Statistics released yesterday.

Visitor numbers to national museums and heritage institutions reached 5.4 million in 2017, up from 5.1 million the year before.

This was in tandem with the record-high attendance of 11.3 million at free arts and cultural events, a figure released earlier, on Jan 22, by the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

The MCCY noted major increases in footfall to the National Museum of Singapore and the Malay Heritage Centre. The former had a special exhibition, Witness To War: Remembering 1942, as well as its 130th anniversary celebrations. A popular exhibition at the latter was Sirri Na Pesse: Navigating Bugis Identities In Singapore.

National Gallery Singapore drew 1.8 million visitors in 2017, up from 1.5 million the year before, helped by blockbuster shows such as Yayoi Kusama: Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow and Century Of Light, which combined Impressionist paintings with works by two 19th-century South-east Asian artists.

The gallery's chief executive Chong Siak Ching said its team is focused on growing audiences by creating "meaningful and inspiring encounters with art".

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said the findings show Singapore's arts and culture scene is "vibrant and thriving".

She added that the wide variety of arts and heritage events is "the result of hard work and dedication by our arts and culture practitioners, supporters, volunteers and all who appreciate Singapore's culture and heritage".

Investment manager Ivy Goh, 41, visits museums and heritage institutions some 10 times a year to expose her two sons, aged six and four, to art and culture and she hopes to go even more regularly in years to come.

She recalled being impressed by exhibitions such as Century Of Light and Witness To War, especially their multimedia and interactive elements. "It's a very good way of introducing my sons to history, to things they don't get to see any more."

While government spending on the arts and culture rose to $840.7 million in 2017 from $720 million the year before, the data also shows that arts and cultural philanthropy fell in 2017 to $63.8 million from $74.3 million in 2016 and $152.6 million in 2015.

An MCCY spokesman noted that larger infrastructure projects in 2015 such as National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, which would have required bigger donor contributions, might have impacted giving in subsequent years.

"There are also upcoming infrastructure projects including Esplanade's Waterfront Theatre and the revamp of Singapore Art Museum," she said. "Donors keen on making transformational gifts have more opportunities to do so."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'Visitor numbers for museums, heritage centres hit record high'. Print Edition | Subscribe