SINGAPORE - The Istana stands as a symbol of Singapore's evolution over the years, President Halimah Yacob said on Friday (Jan 26).
"It is a repository for our history and how it has evolved. The Istana started off as a place for the British governor and...now, is a symbol of our independence and sovereignty," she told reporters during her first visit to the Istana Heritage Gallery.
The gallery, located at Istana Park across the main Istana gate, opened in October 2016, and houses art pieces, state artefacts and state gifts from the President's official residence.
While it is "not as big as the other museums", Madam Halimah said thought has gone into "how to enhance and strengthen it so it will be more exciting and interactive".
During the visit, Madam Halimah also witnessed the first Istana Heritage Gallery Challenge, in which students take part in quizzes about the heritage and history of the Istana.
This year's competition, which runs over two weekends, has 228 students from upper primary and lower secondary levels in 19 schools here participating.
The top three teams will get trophies and a commemorative Istana book. Every participant will get a certificate of participation and an Istana souvenir bookmark as well.
Emphasising that the Istana Heritage Gallery is not just a place for tourists, Madam Halimah said she would like more Singaporeans to visit, especially those in the younger generation.
"That's why I asked the students whether they would bring their family members and friends, and they said yes, they would," she said.
St Joseph's Institution Secondary 2 student Torance Tan, 14, who scored a selfie with the president, said he found the artefacts on display interesting.
"Usually, we hear about foreign delegates coming over to Singapore to visit, but now we can see for ourselves the things they bring," he said.
For 10-year-old Benjamin Saw from Loyang Primary School, the heritage gallery has made him consider visiting the Istana.
"I was about seven when I first heard my parents talk about the Istana. I have never been there before, but now I want to," he said.