Goes To Singapore 3: Art & History in Singapore’s Museums

Asian Civilisations Museum robe

Books and museums are practically alike. These tools of education feed our minds with limitless knowledge recorded from far beyond the corners of the planet, and delivered right in front of our eyes. Both books and museums serve the same purpose – learning and awareness. The only difference is, museums kicks learning one notch up. Let’s find out how and why, when Goes To Singapore to visit museums.

ArtScience Museum in Singapore Marina Bay FrontLotus-shaped building of ArtScience Museum

ArtScience Museum in SingaporeEntrance to ArtScience Museum

Outside In Artscience Museum Singapore“Outside In: A Magnum Photos Showcase”

Capturing my attention as my eyes sweep though Marinay Bay Front was the lotus-shaped building of the ArtScience Museum. The world’s first “ArtScience” museum caters to touring exhibitions like Outside In: A Magnum Photos Showcase, which was on the limelight during my visit. Magnum Photos is an renowned photography agency for renowned photographers from all over the globe. For me, they’re like the Freemasons of the image capture industry, the elite of the elite, and the cream of the crop.

Outside In ArtScience Museum in SingaporeOutside In’s promotional poster features 3 photos from the 3 photographers. Top, Jacob Aue Sobol’s photo, middle, Mark Power’s, and bottom, Stuart Franklin’s

Three photographers from Magnum Photos were featured on this exhibit. First, Mark Power with his photographic documentation of Poland’s social transition entitled, “The Sound of Two Songs”. Danishphotographer, Jacob Aue Sobol, penetrates deeper into dark corners of Tokyo and captured the striking images of the people and their city, showcased in his collection entitled, “I, Tokyo.Stuart Franklin portrayed the effects and evidences of Europe’s climate change on his documentation entitled, “Footprint: Our Landscape in Flux”. A personal favorite of mine for the exhibit’s stunning, at the same time, alarming landscape photographs.

Peranakan Museum SingaporeFacade of Peranakan Museum

Since Singapore established a name for being hub of trade, Chinese and Indian merchants embarked on a journey to take advantage of the economic opportunity. Some traders preferred to settle in Singapore,  got married to locals, and started their own family. The couples did not only gave birth to sons or daughters but they gave birth to a new identity – the Peranakan, a Malay-term for “locally born.”

Peranakan Museum in SingaporePeranakan Museum’s Gallery 1: Origins.

The Peranakan culture is best explored and studied  in no other than the Peranakan Museum for it houses a wide collection of cultural heritage and priceless remnants of a Peranakan. The exhibit was divided into 10 galleries, beginning with Gallery 1: Origins. The first gallery explains the mixed origins of the people, and gives an introduction to the Peranakan culture. Galleries 2-5: Wedding, yes, three galleries were designated for this significant 12-day Peranakan wedding alone.

Emily of Emerald Hill in Peranakan Museum SingaporeA Peranakan wedding dress used in “Emily of Emerald Hill”, a monodrama written by Stella Kon.

Victoria Theatre Posters 1948 in Peranakan MuseumVintage event posters of Victoria Theatre in Peranakan Musem.

Hup Soo Ee Black Wood Chair IN Peranakan MuseumHup Soo Ee is a blackwood chair used in wedding ceremonies. This is also used in Emily of Emerald Hill.

Gallery 6: Nonya emphasizes on the preparation of a Peranakan girl for her married life, just like the museum’s featured exhibit (during the time of my visit), “Emily of Emerald Hill”. This monodrama written by Stella Kon characterizes a Peranakan woman’s transition from being a bride to a strong matriarch. The story was inspired by the experiences of the author who grew up with a Peranakan family. Video clips, photos, and some props from the award-winning drama are displayed in this multimedia and interactive gallery.

Peranakan Religion in museumPeranakan gods, ancestors and spirits exhibited in Gallery 7.

Daoism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship encompasses the traditional Peranakan beliefs. Gallery 7: Religion exhibits the statues and idols sought by the people to gain favor and receive blessings from the supernatural. Gallery 8: Public Life, on the other hand, centers on famous Peranakan personalities who made contributions to Singapore’s commerce, politics, and social affairs.

Food and Feasting Gallery Peranakan museum singapore
A lady looking at a Peranakan dining table in Gallery 9

An intricate arrangement of tables, wares, and chairs mimicking a Peranakan dining area fascinates visitors in Gallery 9: Food and Feasting.  Also featured in this gallery is a kitchen where the food is prepared during festivities.  Bringing down the curtain to this Peranakan experience is Gallery 10: Coversations featuring the evolution of the people as the keep up the pace with time but still cherish the Peranakan identity.

The Substation alley in SingaporeThe Substation in Singapore.

When I went out Peranakan Museum, a wall painting certainly caught my eye and scratch the curiosity out of me. Walking towards the narrow alley, I found out that the attention-grabbing graffiti was only the tip of the ice berg. Rather, it was the building’s entire wall turned into an awesome canvass of fascinating street art masterpieces.

The Substation SingaporePeranakan Museum on the right, The Substation’s on the left

The Substation SingaporeGraffiti on The Substation’s wall.

The Substation SingaporeColorful wall graffiti

From a quick research that I did, I found out that this wall screaming with art from end to end belong to The Substation, Singapore’s first contemporary arts center, a breeding ground for modern artists. The former building of the power substation, as the name suggest, is now the home and a venue for flourishing a diverse range of art from photography to painting, dancing to literature, films and music. Courses are also offered for those inclined to the arts who want to enhance their talents and skills.

 Asian Civilisations Museum SingaporeAsian Civilisations Museum at night (Photo from 2008)

 The last but definitely not the least on my museum list is my personal favorite, the Asian Civilisations Museum. Standing boldly at the banks of the Singapore River, this Neo-Palladian structure was once the historic Empress Place Building, which was restored and now houses a huge collection telling the tales and stories of largest continent on the planet. Asian Civilisation Museum or ACM concentrate on the material history of different regions in Asia, from east to west.

Miniature Singapore River Asian Civilisation MuseumA miniature of 14th century Singapore River banks.

Winning Duck SIngapore River Race Asian Civilisations MuseumThe duck that won the Singapore Million Dollar Duck Race.

 Delve into the evolution of the banks of 14th century Singapore to the present in the first gallery, Singapore River Gallery. Here you’ll find miniature scenes from the life of a regular Singaporean living on the banks of the river, and the events that occur, like the Singapore Million Dollar Duck Race. Gallery2 showcases special exhibits like the Islamic Arts From The Southeast Asia: Highlights of the Asian Civilisations Museum which was the on-going exhibit during my visit.

Buraq Asian Civilisations MuseumBuraq. The mythological steed wooden sculpture found in Mindanao, Philippines.

the first five monksThe First Five Monks of Buddhism

Nāga Buddhism Asian Civilisations MuseumBuddha with Nāga, a snake believed to possess psychic powers

Southeast Asia consists of 3 galleries focusing on 2,500 years of trade, religion, and, history. Southeast Asia Gallery 3 boasts of a collection dating back from 600 B.C. including bronze and ceramic pieces used for trade. Also in this gallery are statues and idols which are evidences of religion and the supernatural that also played a huge role in Asian civilizations. Mary and Philbert Chin Gallery, also under Southeast Asian Galleries, unveils the artistry in textile and jewel-making industry across the region. The performance arts of Southeast Asia is highlighted by the complete instrument set of a Javanese gamelan ensemble displayed in Southeast Asian Gallery 4A.

Pejeng style drum in asian civilisations museumPejeng-style bronze drum

Gambang Javanese Xylophone asian civilisations museumGambang, a Javanese or Balinese xylophone.

A Javanese Statue Asian Civilisations MuseumI think this is a Javanese statue (Photo from 2008)

Three of the world’s major religions started in West Asia – one of them is Islam, which means “to submit”. The West Asia Galleries 5 & 5A reveals 3 themes of the monotheistic religion. First is Islam As A Way Of Life, wherein the practices and beliefs of Allah’s followers are thoroughly explained. The second focuses on Islamic Art which examines the importance of geometric designs, arabesque style fonts, and calligraphy. Seeking Knowledge is the third of the West Asia section. It gives emphasis on Qu’ranic exegesis, traditions of the prophet, the shariah, and others. As a whole, the West Asia Galleries section explains deeper Islam, not only as a religion, but a way of life as well.

 West Asia Gallery Asian Civilisations MuseumWest Asia Gallery in Asian Civilisations Museum

Islamic WritingsIslamic writings.

Asia’s largest country, China, is one of the world’s earliest civilizations is on the spotlight in Gallery 6, the Kwek Hong Png China Gallery. The gallery sheds light on the role of the Emperor, and supernatural deities which explains the Chinese religious traditions. Also in the gallery are centuries-old ceramics used for trade and export by early Chinese merchants.

Budhha statues in Asian Civilisations MuseumChinese Buddha statue (if you happen to know the name, I’d be  glad to edit this)

Chinese Porcelain figurinesChinese finely molded figurines.

Buddhism a religion from the westBuddhism: A Religion From The West

South Asia Galleries 7 and 8 dedicates the section to ancient science, architecture and performing arts but most of all, religion. Hinduism and Buddhism were born in this Asian region, and spread throughout the east. Stone representations of Hindu gods like Shiva and elephant-headed god, Ganesha, can be found in this section together with south Indian bronzes,  textiles, metalworks, and archival photographs.

South Asia stone carving asian civilisations museumGanesha on the right most (Photo from 2008)

Asian Civilisations Museum south asia galleryIntricate stone sculpture

As a Filipino, and a full-blooded Asian, the Asian Civilisations Museum gave me a much deeper insight on the ancestry of peoples from across the continent including the Philippines. Be enlightened by the ancient influences that are still evident in present day traditions and beliefs. I could compare my ACM experience to an Indiana Jones movie without worrying of booby traps, snakes, and enemies, while seeing ancient relics and artifacts.

Asian civilisations museumA Hinduism stone sculpture.

Asian Civilisations MuseumWhile I wait in ACM’s main entrance for the rain to subside.

Museums give visitors a taste of the real deal, or probably the closest you could get to historical finds you see only in books, movies, and internet. This is a big thing for visual persons like me, who prefers seeing things than imagining a figure or a photograph on my mind while I read books. Not only does museums educates its visitors but it also serves as a home to important relics, artifacts, exhibits, where specialists could closely monitor the condition, thus, preserving it for the education of future generations.

I hope you like these destinations, and maybe on your next visit, you could drop by to some if not all. Let’s visit our next destination: Chinatown.


Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:

1. ArtScience Museum is located at Marina Bay Sands  Singapore 018956. Click on GoThere.SG for directions. Museum is open from 10AM to 10PM daily.

2. ArtScience Museum’s admission charges vary from exhibit to exhibit. Outside In: A Magnum Photos Showcase cost SGD 6.00 only.

3. Peranakan Museum is located at 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941. Click on GoThere.SG for directions

4.  Peranakan Museum admission charges.
SGD 6.00 – Individual
SGD 3.00 – Friday nights (7PM – 9PM)
SGD 11.00 – Asian Civilisations and Peranakan Museums Joint Ticket

5. Asian Civilisations Museum is located at  1 Empress Pl  Singapore 179555

6. Asian Civilisations Museum hours:
1PM to 7PM – Mondays
9PM to 9PM – Fridays
9PM to 7PM – Tuesday to Sunday (except Friday)

Check out ACM’s website for their guided tour schedule.

7. Asian Civilisations admission charges:
SGD 8.00 -Individual charges (FEE DISCOUNTED on Fridays)
SGD 20.00 – Family package (maximum of 5)
SGD 11.00 – Asian Civilisations and Peranakan Museums Joint Ticket

8. Picture taking is prohibited in ArtScience Museum, while ACM and Peranakan allows without using flash.

9. Read more about the Goes To Singapore Series.

10. More Singapore destinations in Biyaheng Singapore.

11. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.

12. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter

13. Happy travels everyone.

The Substation

5 thoughts on “ Goes To Singapore 3: Art & History in Singapore’s Museums

  1. Pingback: Goes To Singapore 2: Singapore Botanic Gardens & Fort Canning Park « Biyaherong Barat

  2. Pingback: Goes To Singapore 5: On The Banks Of Marina Bay « Biyaherong Barat

  3. Pingback: » Blog Archive » A learning experience at the museums

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