A walk through Singapore's first and only natural history museum is meant to be a serene experience, much like taking a walk in a lush forest.
That is why the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which opens to the public next Tuesday, is barring selfie sticks and flash photography. It is also selling tickets for 11/2-hour slots and not daily passes allowing guests entry at any time they choose.
"We calculated that the whole gallery experience will be between one and 11/2 hours, so we calibrated the slots on that basis," museum head Peter Ng told The Straits Times. "Because of the initial interest, we did not want this place to be 'free for all' - because then guests would not get the same experience."
There are six such sessions a day, with the first at 10am and the last at 5.30pm. Each slot can take about 200 people, and tickets must be pre-booked through ticketing agent Sistic and will not be available for sale on site.
Tickets cost $20 per adult and $12 per child, but Singaporeans and permanent residents enjoy discounted rates of $15 per adult and $8 for a child. As of 6pm yesterday, 1,818 tickets had been sold for visits from April 28 to May 31.
Professor Ng stressed that guests would not be turned away the minute their time runs out. The time limit is an administrative guideline for selling tickets, to control the crowd in the 2,000 sq m exhibition space, he added.
Visitors to the museum, which is located within the National University of Singapore campus in Kent Ridge, can browse a treasure trove of 2,000 artefacts in its biodiversity and heritage galleries.
They include the genuine fossils of three diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs, which are among the largest creatures to roam the earth 150 million years ago.
The $46 million museum building was funded through philanthropic gifts, with the Lee Foundation donating $25 million.
In response to netizens who ask why the museum is charging an admission fee when most other museums here do not, Prof Ng said it was because it is not an institution under the National Heritage Board. The statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth runs six museums here, including the National Museum of Singapore, to which Singaporeans and permanent residents enjoy free admission.
"The museum needs to be financially independent. The endowments and donations have been able to subsidise a large chunk of operating costs, but not fully. We therefore need ticketing to offset some of those costs," Prof Ng said.
Mr Muhammad Hafiz'zan Shah, 30, a veterinary nurse, noted that there are other museums with a similar policy, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which issues one-hour passes from March to August. He said: "Having a limited timeframe will definitely help with overcrowding and crowd control."