Friday, January 27, 2012

Down Memory Lane At National Museum Part 1

Free public galleries are fun as you get to know more about the different government agencies and their part to play in helping Singapore. But, they can't be classified as museums. That's why today I am going to give you a tour around one of Singapore's oldest museum, the National Museum in Bras Basah.

The National Museum is located beside and opposite one of Singapore's famed universities, the Singapore Management University and it's located near the famous shopping destination, Orchard Road. Getting to the National Museum is easy thanks to the new Bras Basah MRT Station on the Circle Line. The architecture represents old colonial buildings in the past when Singapore was still under the British. It used to be known as the Raffles Library and Museum in the past. 

The National Museum underwent a revamp and it was reopened in 2006. Now, the National Museum is home to famous galleries such as the Singapore Living Galleries and the Singapore History Gallery.

I just love the interior of the building. It mixes the old nostalgic look and feel of the museum with modern architecture such as the marble flooring and the transparent ceiling. Just like any other museum, there are restaurants, temporary galleries and of course, the museum gift shop. There is a small one at the entrance and also a bigger one at the back of the museum which is by Banyan Tree. There is also a fancy restaurant near the entrance which is the Novus Restaurant and Bar.

Okay, enough with the chit chat. Let's talk about the galleries and exhibitions in general. The National Museum has four Living Galleries which talks about the way Singaporeans and people in Singapore live in the past. The galleries cover a range of topics such as Film & Wayang, Photography, Fashion and my favourite, Food.

First when you enter the Film and Wayang exhibition, you'll be presented with three large screens. Make yourself comfortable and sit down and enjoy the 6 min short film which showcases Malay movies made in the past by Shaw Brothers. Behind the giant screens, you'll be presented with movie related artefacts from the past which includes props, vinyl records, old cameras and scripts. You'll also find old movie posters and pictures of actors and actresses.

Also, don't forget to watch interviews with senior actors and actresses about their lives during their involvement in the film industry in the past. Do check out the replica gramophones and listen to Malay music of the past. It's interesting to know about all the past movie industry in Singapore way before 3D films and online ticketing were invented.

Go further in and you'll be mesmerised by Chinese drama and plays of the past. Check out the different masks they wore and how each mask represent different personalities and characters. In the glass display at the side, you get to see the clothes for the dramas and plays. It's amazing how they went through all these just to entertain the general public. Now, let's move on to the next part of the National Museum which is the Fashion gallery.

Right over here at the Fashion Gallery, be mesmerised by the different kinds of clothings and make up women wear in the olden days. You can view the different kinds of Cheongsams, Baju Kebayas, nostalgic night gowns and the likes. They're all featured behind big glass showcases. Also, don't forget to check out music of the past at the side.

When you walk in further, there are several large pieces of fabric which you can touch, feel and learn more about them at the same time. Walk in some more and watch how a craftsman makes a custom made Cheongsam and learn about the history of it too. At the side are the old sewing machines used by tailors back then. You can even hear how the sewing machines sound like in the room itself.

This is my favourite exhibit which is the Food Gallery. When you enter the gallery, you get to see the different icons of food in Singapore such as Satay, Roti Prata, Laksa and others. You can also sit down at one of the benches and view the videos that show you how the iconic foods are being prepared. For example, the Satay is made by inserting chunks of meat into a stick and the Roti Prata is made by kneading the dough and flying it around like pizza. You get what I mean right? You can also find artefacts of old cooking pots, pans and bottles that were regularly used in the past.

Further in, you'll find a room full of spices in big glass jars. You can even smell some of the spices by pulling the metallic ring although I don't recommend you to smell them as some of them have unpleasant smells and they're not recommended for those with allergies. You can find those mortar and pestle that people use back then along with the different cups used for different hot drinks such as Milo, Ovaltine and Horlicks.

There is also this particular gallery called the Goh Seng Choo gallery. Unlike the other galleries, this is specifically about paintings of wildlife that were discovered by William Farquhar. William Farquhar was Singapore's first resident and commandant. He discovered several zoological and botanical discoveries. He hired painters to paint the discoveries. The late Mr Goh Seng Choo's son bought the paintings and donated them to the National Museum. So check out this gallery if you're into science and art and the rich botanical and zoological history of SIngapore.

This is the last Singapore Living Gallery I have visited at the National Museum. This one was about Photography. In this gallery, it showcases all the old photographs, group photos and family portraits. You can also view 'scrapbooks' which contained a large amount of old photographs of specific people. Big and old cameras can also be found at the side of the gallery. 

So those were all the Living Galleries I have viewed. But, that's not all. There are still some more galleries worth having a look such as the Singapore History Gallery and the temporary exhibitions. Although, I would cover that on a later post. Right now, these galleries are worth having a look as they give an inside look at how Singaporeans live way before modern technology arrived at our shores.

The National Museum is located in the Bras Basah arts and heritage centre which also consists of the Singapore Art Museum, SAM at 8Q, Waterloo Street, Singapore Management University and others. There are several bus services that pass by the museum and also an MRT Station that is just a few metres away from it. The National Museum is a great place to spend your spare time and I recommend you to only go during open house around the major public holidays as you get free access to all galleries including temporary ones.

Getting Here

Bus services available: 7, 14, 14e, 16, 36, 77, 106, 111, 124, 128, 131, 147, 162, 162M, 166 (Bus stop outside SMU along Stamford Road)

139, 64, 65, NR6 (Bus stop outside SMU along Bencoolen Street)

Nearest MRT Station: CC2 Bras Basah MRT Station (Circle Line)


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