Changi chapel, museum reopening on May 19

Closed since 2018 for redevelopment, it is set to display a bigger collection of artefacts

A worker installing a Kodak Baby Brownie camera for exhibition at the museum. It was hidden by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston during his incarceration at the old Changi Prison. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO The old number plate from cell 14 of the old Chang
A worker installing a Kodak Baby Brownie camera for exhibition at the museum. It was hidden by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston during his incarceration at the old Changi Prison. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
A worker installing a Kodak Baby Brownie camera for exhibition at the museum. It was hidden by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston during his incarceration at the old Changi Prison. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO The old number plate from cell 14 of the old Chang
A chronometer from the HMS Bulan, a ship that took part in the evacuation of people from Singapore before the Japanese Occupation.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
A worker installing a Kodak Baby Brownie camera for exhibition at the museum. It was hidden by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston during his incarceration at the old Changi Prison. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO The old number plate from cell 14 of the old Chang
The old number plate from cell 14 of the old Changi Prison. This artefact is from the National Museum of Singapore’s collection.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
A worker installing a Kodak Baby Brownie camera for exhibition at the museum. It was hidden by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston during his incarceration at the old Changi Prison. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO The old number plate from cell 14 of the old Chang
A red muster gong used by the Japanese to conduct roll calls of prisoners. This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Set in a sleepy quarter of Upper Changi Road, an understated white building bears witness to the memories of thousands of prisoners of war in the old Changi Prison during World War II.

The Changi Chapel and Museum, which was closed in 2018 for redevelopment, is reopening its doors on May 19, a year later than slated.

This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Japanese surrender.

The media got a first look at the refurbished building on Wednesday as museum workers installed some artefacts, including never-before-seen ones like a 400-page diary by an internee to his wife in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

Following the revamp, the museum will display an expanded collection, complementing other sites that commemorate World War II, such as Reflections at Bukit Chandu, also set to reopen this year, and the Former Ford Factory.

On Wednesday, six new artefacts were unveiled - just some of those that will be exhibited. The museum was coy about the total number of artefacts it has acquired.

The 400-page diary was a gift from the family of Mr Arthur Westrop, who was a civilian internee at Changi Prison. The diary was hidden beneath the floorboards of his cell and each entry was written as a letter to his wife, who had been evacuated to Africa.

The other five artefacts are a chronometer from around 1918 from the HMS Bulan, a cargo ship that took part in the evacuation; a Kodak Baby Brownie camera that was hidden by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston in Changi Prison; a number plate from cell 14; a red muster gong used by the Japanese to conduct roll calls of prisoners; and a painting of emaciated prisoners of war in the collection of the National Museum of Singapore.

Meanwhile, old favourites like a section of the Changi Wall, a Morse code transmitting device hidden in a matchbox that was used by prisoners to transmit messages, and replicas of biblical murals painted to give prisoners spiritual solace continue to be key highlights.

The museum will release more information nearer its reopening, but there are plans for events such as a recorded orchestral performance and storytelling sessions for the opening weekend of May 22 and 23.

Changi Chapel and Museum remains free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

For tourists and foreign residents, those eligible for concessions pay $5 and adults pay $8.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2021, with the headline 'Changi chapel, museum reopening on May 19'. Subscribe