An old museum restored in a modern way
The National Museum of Singapore was formerly affectionately called one of the old ladies of Singapore. She is old, exactly 120 years old to date. However, in 2003, she took a 3 year break from work to go on a working holiday by having a major cosmetic surgery in refurbishing.
In 2006, she threw open her doors and shocked a nation with her brand new restoration. She can now run swiftly in tune with the latest trends in high art and museum haute couture.
The Museum is painted all white. It is a kind of informal coat of arms for all the historical monuments in Singapore. The practical reasons being white paint is cheaper and old buildings need new coats in every decade or less. Another worthy reason is that white brightens up the dark places, especially in huge, mega buildings which were built in a different era.
An innovative museum
The new innovations in museum conceptual ideology include audience participation and education of the young. The first thing that greets the eye upon entry is the vast expanse of space. There’s nothing in the hall so you are compelled to enter into the beyond.
Surprises await you. It is a room with a ceiling high magnetic board wall. There are strips of metal in funny, funky snake-like shapes. You pick one up and throw it against the wall. If it sticks, hurrah! You score. If it falls, just pick it up and throw it against the wall again. The children love this. There are even silver colored spring coils that work on the same principles. These are great toys for venting frustration and having legitimate reasons for throwing a tantrum on an object. You can’t kick this wall but you sure can throw things at it.
An interactive family-friendly museum
After you’ve had your fill of this magnetic wall, you swing yourself breezily through into the nest airy hall. You see a huge screen. It is runs from floor to ceiling. A video camera mounted at the opposite end of the ceiling captures all entrants and beam the images onto this screen. I heard the delighted shrieks of children as they marveled at being instant TV stars.
See, it is all about participation. The massive gigantic proportion of the screen is meant to take your breath away. The architect and engineer could have installed a small screen but that would not create the same awesome response as a giant of immeasurable proportions. This is a simple concept that works on almost everything.
There is almost nothing else in this huge hall. Save for a narrow corridor of small tables and chairs with festive art and craft activities for he kids. Hey, a childcare corner for the kiddies while parents browse the real art.
A museum of History
Being non-handicapped, I climbed the stairs. There were a grand total of 3 exhibition rooms. No kidding. In this huge, massive grand dame, there were only 3 exhibition rooms to house the History of Singapore.
So, the history is summarized fairly quickly into the past in pictorial artifacts, old tools of the trades of the founding fathers and mothers of Singapore and lastly, the first Singaporean designer to make a name for himself on the international scene; Benny Ong. Ten of his formal dinner ballroom gowns were displayed. His designs were bought by royalty such as the late Princess Diana.
Photography is expressively forbidden in all 3 rooms. The displays need protection from camera flashes.
At the annex, there was another massive hall for carefree breathing. I call it that because there were no consequential displays of anything. So ends this tour of visitor participation. I’m glad I came to be awed by spatial alienation.
Photo of the National Museum of Singapore originally posted by unforth