Exhibition features sights, sounds and smells of Istana

President Halimah Yacob at the roving exhibition, Our Istana: A Living Museum, which was launched at the Tampines Regional Library yesterday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
President Halimah Yacob at the roving exhibition, Our Istana: A Living Museum, which was launched at the Tampines Regional Library yesterday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Showcase aims to make presidential estate more accessible to all, says President Halimah

When foreign dignitaries visit the Istana, they are usually greeted with a glass of Istana Harvest Mocktail, made from roselle grown in the spice gardens on the grounds.

But visitors to a roving exhibition at the Tampines Regional Library can learn to make this drink for themselves as the recipe for it - along with other little-known facts and exhibits from the fabled presidential estate - is on display.

The Our Istana: A Living Museum exhibition is part of efforts to make the Istana more accessible to everyone, said President Halimah Yacob at the launch yesterday.

She also noted that the Istana is a place where Singaporeans have a shared history and distinct identity.

"The exhibition shares the Istana's 150 years of history with Singaporeans... It's also an opportunity for us to share photographs and information that the public do not normally have access to," she said after touring the exhibition.

During the launch, Madam Halimah also took time to read to children from the Hougang Sheng Hong Society Day Care Centre.

Through interactive exhibits, visitors can go behind the scenes and learn about the people who work on the Istana grounds, such as butlers, chefs and aides-de-camp to the President.


Objects rarely seen in public will also be displayed, including presidential tableware and staff uniforms.

Members of the public can also smell the flowers grown in the Istana gardens, and even hear the chirping of birds found on the grounds in an interactive segment that recreates the sights, sounds and smells of the flora and fauna.

The Istana gardens are home to more than 10,000 trees and palms belonging to about 150 species. They also host at least 83 species of resident and migratory birds in a year, including the oriental pied hornbill.

Said Madam Halimah: "This is my favourite part of the exhibition - the sounds of the birds and the smells of the flowers and trees. They are very accurate."

The showcase took about nine months to put together, said exhibition curator Mishelle Lim, who is from the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

"The Istana is a part of our national narrative. It belongs to us... and it represents Singapore and is growing together with the nation," she added.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the President's Office, National Heritage Board, National Library Board, National Parks Board and Singapore Pools.

Madam Halimah said: "I would like to encourage Singaporeans to come to the exhibition and learn a little more about our shared history, shared legacy, and also our identity."

The exhibition, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Istana, will be visiting five other public libraries over the next six months.

Separately, more than 5,000 people visited a showcase commemorating Singapore's history at Fort Canning Park that was opened to the public yesterday.

Titled From Singapore To Singaporean: The Bicentennial Experience, the showcase takes visitors through key moments in the Republic's history.

It includes a multimedia showcase indoors and an outdoor trail featuring eight interactive pavilions and installations.

• Additional reporting by Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 02, 2019, with the headline 'Exhibition features sights, sounds and smells of Istana'. Print Edition | Subscribe