National Museum Singapore – Singapura: 700 years

Our grand old dame of a national museum is currently having an exhibition entitled “Singapura: 700 years”. The hubs brought K there recently, and suggested that I check it out too, since it’s quite interesting, and chargeable for tourists ($6) but free for Singaporeans (yay).


Having taken history at the O and A levels, most of the information was quite familiar to me. However, I must say that the NMS has done a very commendable job in putting together the exhibits. It is definitely world class as museum exhibits go.


The hubs found the pre-1819 history the most interesting, since it is the least talked about, and possibly the least verifiable. Apart from the famous Sang Nila Utama, I learnt that Singapura was ruled by five kings, the first traceable one being Sri Tri Buana, who was likely a descendant of Alexander the Great (see tiny words below). Perhaps the offspring of union with a local woman?


From an arched walkway towards ‘modern colonial Singapore’, to dioramas portraying the commercial activities in the centre of town in the 1800s, and the loads across a bamboo pole come to life… the displays were varied and very engaging.

I particularly enjoyed a 1937 film travelogue produced by a Caucasian ‘Globe Trekker’, that captured the sights and sounds of Singapore then in such vivid array. From the boats with large triangular sails, to the Chinese Amahs tending to their little Caucasian charges, to the Raffles Hotel… I really felt transported back in time. What a precious film that is, even if it is mainly captured through Western lenses, literally and figuratively.


Although I have read of accounts of Japanese atrocities during the time when Singapore became Syonan-To, I was once again shocked to the core as I walked through this section. Perhaps it is because I have since become a mother, but it was unbearable to look at the drawing of an entire family, tied to various trees, awaiting execution. I almost wished I hadn’t looked, for now the vision of two children tied to the same tree, will forever be seared in my mind.

In making sense of it all, each time I am faced with such historical accounts, I try to divorce the Japanese military with the Japan of today, with the Japanese friends I have, and with its culture and food. As with Germany, I suppose this was a scar in their history, a time when irrationality and cruelty ruled. I cannot take the Japanese today to task over it, and I suppose over all, there must always be forgiveness, so that no bitter root grows.

The friendly and knowledgeable non-Singaporean guide took the chance (since it was a day after LKY’s funeral) to relate the story of how Mr Lee himself had narrowly escaped being executed by Japanese soldiers for he was rounded up and asked to board a truck.

Finally the exhibition ended with a section on the early years of Singapore as an independent nation. What particularly caught my eye were the bilingual posters proclaiming that “Happiness is a two child family”.  Hear, hear.  : P

This exhibition started running in October last year and will only end in August this year, so go catch it if you have the time. No harm bringing children too – there are not many exhibits that specifically cater to children, but those of primary school age should find it interesting, and be able to read snippets at the exhibits that they feel drawn to.

In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew

This is another exhibition that opened on 25 March, and will run till 26 April. Incidentally it has the same title as the post I penned on 24 March.

This is a small scale exhibition in the open area on the second floor of the museum, but the objects displayed, the careful curation of images and videos, voice recordings and floor to ceiling posters, made for a meaningful walk through.


At this point after the funeral, I felt inundated by the constant LKY videos/articles on mainstream and social media in the preceding week.  Still, I couldn’t help feeling a lump form in my throat as I watched yet another video (a longer version of what made it to our state media free-to-air channels) of him speaking in the 1970s.

Part of this exhibition will be incorporated into the permanent one on Singapore’s history after the renovations in the main halls are completed in the third quarter of this year.



National Museum of Singapore
93 Stamford Road, 178897


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  2 comments for “National Museum Singapore – Singapura: 700 years

  1. April 3, 2015 at 7:50 am

    I’ve been meaning to visit the Singapura 700 years exhibition. Interesting to know that they have displays (and exhibits?) about SIngapore’s history pre-1819! Hope to squeeze out the time to check it out. I think I might not bring the kids, if not I prob won’t get to read anything!
    Mummybean recently posted…Day In A Life: This Is My ThursdayMy Profile

    • April 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      True! This is the first time in a loooong I’ve been to the museum sans kids.
      Shocked that the queues for the LKY exhibition are now hours long. It’s a very tiny exhibition and it wasn’t crowded on 30th March!
      Lyn Lee recently posted…Day in the lifeMy Profile

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