I find buildings interesting, not the rectangular glass and concrete blocks which plague cities world-wide, but buildings that have a story. The building may demonstrate thought in its design or it may have been a place where people made stories which changed their society at the time or which we are interested in today.
The building housing the National Museum of Singapore is one of those buildings. On the weekend we travelled through the concrete and glass buildings that dominate the roads of Singapore and there it was – a statement of Singapore’s British colonial past.
It was opened in 1887 and has been extended and modified several times since. Most recently it was closed for over three years in the early years of this century for extensive renovation and expansion.
I have lost my camera in the last few weeks (I’m trying to be stoic about it) so I have to use my phone for photography. This building is interesting to photograph.
The substantial twenty-first century additions have been thoughtfully connected with the nineteenth century building.
But there has been no attempt to hide some new modifications.
We saw an exhibition of photographs and then dived down into the bowels of the building to visit the Singapore History Gallery. This is an excellent exhibition for people like us who are new to this history. There are two trails to follow, the ‘events’ trail and the ‘personal stories’ trail. Hubble decided to orientate in the island’s history through the events trail. I decided to take the ‘personal stories’ path, attracted by the promise of hearing the stories of people who are not normally heard in traditional history.
We separated and immersed ourselves in the past. An essential device is the free audio-visual guide that is handed to all visitors upon entering the Gallery. It is one of those round your neck, punch in the numbers devices that are in so many museums and galleries now. The device is essential in the Singapore History Gallery because the traditional practice of placing brief descriptions next to artefacts has been completely dropped.
The two trails are woven together by common areas connecting the paths. At these points a visitor can change trails if they wish. I managed to see both trails for the early nineteenth century period.
There is a lot to absorb for the visitor. We had been at the Museum for three hours and both of us felt that we could not absorb any more. As Hubble said, we will probably have to visit it several times before we can finish it.
At home later I was delighted to discover the Friends of the Museums. I have moved a lot in my life having lived in all four eastern states of Australia. The longest I have lived in one abode is five years. One of the important things I have learned from all this moving is to join clubs and other organisations as soon as possible.
Friends of the Museums looks great – free entry, special programs, tours and other goodies to learn more about the history of the area. I can’t wait to join!