Singapore may be a young nation, but the massive changes it has undergone during its short history to become the cosmopolitan, forward-thinking city it is today make for some fascinating museum exhibits. The museums of Singapore can be broadly divided into two types – those celebrating the origins of Singapore and the ancestors of the people who make up its multi-cultural population, and those commemorating the events of World War II. Below we bring you the top five museums to visit during your stay in Singapore.
National Museum of Singapore
The excellent National Museum of Singapore is a great way to learn about the country’s entire history and culture in one sitting, and so should be top of your list especially if you only have time to visit one museum. The brilliant Audio Companion supplements the modern, high-tech History Gallery with interviews, dramatised scenarios and personal accounts. You also shouldn’t miss the four Singapore Living Galleries which celebrate Singapore society through the years, highlighting Food, Photography, Fashion and Film.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
The staggering Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in the heart of Chinatown not only houses one of the most revered relics in the Buddhist world, but also has an excellent museum on the third floor where you can learn all about the life story and teachings of Lord Buddha. His story is accompanied by an impressive collection of some of the world’s most beautiful and rare Asian Buddhist artefacts. And its free!
If you only have time to visit one war museum in Singapore, then Fort Siloso on Sentosa is probably your best bet, as it gives an overview of the whole of Singapore’s war history. The museum is divided into three sections: The Yellow Zone is dedicated to the Soldiers’ Life in the 1880s; the Red Zone relives the World War II years and the Blue Zone features a tunnel complex and a 12 pounder quick firing gun. The self-guided tour allows you to walk in the footsteps of the soldiers and includes army barracks, ammunition stores, surrender chambers and the 6-inch gun crews in action.
The Changi Museum is undoubtedly the most poignant of all Singapore’s WWII museums. Dedicated to the memory of all those who suffered incarceration during the Japanese Occupation, its harrowing collection of stories make for a fascinating visit. Personal accounts of torture and humiliation at the hands of the Kempeitei are interspersed with stories of the hardship of rationing and high inflation, and the struggle for survival. Entrance is free but it is well worth stumping up the $8.00 for the audio tour which really brings the exhibition to life with additional stories and actual interviews with survivors.
The Peranakan Museum
The Peranakans (‘Peranakan’ meaning ‘child of’ in Malay and referring to people of mixed ethnic origins) were the offspring of foreign traders who married into the local population, and are unique to South-east Asia – specifically Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The museum mainly focuses on the Peranakan Chinese (the descendents of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca) and showcases their fascinating cultural heritage through the most comprehensive collection of Peranakan artefacts in the world.