Straight after our visit to the Treasures of the World exhibition, we headed to the Singapore History Gallery, as requested by EV. From the outside, the Gallery looks quite understated. Little did we expect that there is a wealth of displays that trace Singapore's history from the time it was a fishing village, to the colonial times, to World War 2 and the country's independence.
The whole gallery is free and easy, and visitors can roam from display to display, from room to room, in whichever way they like. What caught EV's attention at the entrance is a gigantic animation showing an ancient map of the Southeast Asian region. The animation showed Singapore's name at that time, and also the important trading posts nearby, such as Palembang and Aceh. Just next to this screen is a mock up of an old fishing village, complete with fishing nets.
Just when you thought that was the end, a little doorway led to the next area of the gallery, which depicted how Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore. Here, EV had a close encounter with him, or rather, his portrait.
A huge part of the gallery is devoted to the colonial times, which also featured the key personalities from those days, such as Tan Tock Seng and Eunos Abdullah. There are also mock ups of opium dens, displays of ceramic pots used during that time, and a feature on secret societies and the people responsible for controlling them.
EV met some colonial personalities as well, and had a portrait taken with them.
There are lots of photos of Singapore during those days, and I took the opportunity to explain to her how life then was different from life today.
EV saw some items that were used then, but not now, such as the typewriter.
After the colonial area, we were transported to the difficult times during the Japanese occupation.
The actual teak table that was used during the British surrender in 1942 is on display, on loan from a museum in Australian War Memorial. EV was entranced with an animation showing how Japan first conquered Manchuria and then eventually, Malaysia and Singapore. We met our tour guide from the Treasures of the World exhibition, who was with a group of children, and we stole a moment to listen to her explaining about the Sook Ching massacre, when many males were executed by the Japanese.
Then, we moved ahead in time to the period after the world war, when Singapore was on the road to gaining independence. And after that, how the country developed to become the country it is today. EV saw some old technology, like an old TV.
We entered a mock up of a Housing Board Flat, and it was so nostalgic for me. I had fun explaining to EV how the old stove worked, and how people had to physically carry gas cylinders and put them into the stove itself.
One very nice feature is the huge tree with many screens, and a cosy platform underneath. As the screens play images of flowers, birds and animals, it is relaxing to lay back and watch, especially after an eye opening, time travelling adventure through Singapore’s history.
The Singapore History Gallery is more than meets the eye, a hidden gem that you don’t expect when you first enter it. It is filled with interactive elements, such as animation, voice recordings and videos, effective in engaging with the younger crowd as they trace 700 years of history and who may tend to be more visual and aural inclined. Definitely worth a visit.
Singapore History Gallery
10am – 7pm
Free admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.
Find out more here.