SINGAPORE - 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, are 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 on Saturday (June 1), adding that it 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 and reading to children from the Hougang Sheng Hong Society Day Care Centre who were also at the launch.
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 bedisplayed, including presidential tableware and the uniforms of staff members.
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.
Said Madam Halimah: "This is my favourite part of the exhibition, the sound of the birds and the smell of the flowers and trees. It's very accurate."
The showcase took about nine months to come together, said the exhibition's curator Mishelle Lim, who is from the Singapore Philatelic Museum.
She said: "The Istana is a part of our national narrative. It belongs to us... and it represents Singapore and is growing together with the nation."
The exhibition is a collaboration between the President's Office, the National Heritage Board, the National Library Board, the National Parks Board and Singapore Pools.
Added Madam Halimah: "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 on Saturday (June 1).
Titled From Singapore to Singaporean: The Bicentennial Experience, the showcase takes visitors through key moments in history and includes a multimedia showcase indoors and an outdoor trail featuring eight interactive pavilions and installations.