Is it one of those many days where the weather is way too warm to stay outdoors but yet the malls are too packed for your liking? How about going on an adventure to Jurassic Park, or travel back in time to the Qing Dynasty or Majapahit Emipre?
Contrary to the stereotype of it being “boring”, museums are more than just historic artefacts and school excursions. With more than 30 different museums offering a diverse range of genres in Singapore, you will definitely be able to find a museum that will interest you!
Here is a selection of 11 fascinating museums in Singapore that might pique your interests!
FOR THE NATURE LOVERS
#1 LEE KONG CHIAN NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Stepping into the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is like stepping into Jurassic Park. One step into the museum and it feels like you’re in a jungle, punctuated by an occasional roar of a dinosaur!
The museum boasts a wonderful collection of animals, mainly from South East Asia, which includes the fantastic collection from the old Raffles Museum and Library. Discover more about the animals that once lived here in Singapore and you would be surprised at the diversity of animals that once called our tiny little island home.
Highlights: Three Sauropod dinosaur (those gigantic long necked ones) fossils are the star of the museum. The insect, mammal and mollusc collections are also amazing. An impressive garden featuring native plants is also free to members of the public.
2 Conservatory Drive
Tel: +65 6601 3333
Tue to Sun & PH: 10am – 7pm (Last entry at 5.30pm)
Closed on Mon
FOR THE HISTORY BUFFS
#2 SUN YAT SEN NANYANG MEMORIAL HALL
A medical doctor toppled the once-formidable Qing dynasty. That doctor is Dr Sun Yat Sen, founder of modern China. But did you know Singapore was crucial to the Chinese revolution with toppled the Qing dynasty?
The Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall is not just a museum which glorifies Dr Sun. Crucial to his revolutionary plans are a group of local businessmen who aided Dr Sun financially and intellectually. The building of which the museum now resides is also the actual residence of Dr Sun where he planned some of his revolutions.
Highlights: A good mix of modern technology and historic artefacts telling the story of Dr Sun and how the locals contributed to the Chinese revolution. The building is also full of history and restored to preserve its authenticity.
12 Tai Gin Road
Tel: +65 6256 7377
Tue to Sun: 10am – 5pm
Closed on Mon
#3 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
This is a building and institution steeped in history. Sir Stamford Raffles, William Farquhar and Sultan Hussein are people who we often read about in our history and social studies textbook, but did you know that they also laid the foundation to what is now the National Museum of Singapore?
The Raffles Museum and Library (predecessor of the National Museum) was established as a result of Raffles’ vision, and the pioneer generation may fondly remember the whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling and the vast cultural artefacts from tribes and civilisations around the region.
Although the natural history collection has now moved to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and its ethnographic collection to the Asian Civilisation Museum, the revamped National Museum of Singapore still has a lot to show, mainly focusing on Singapore’s history and houses the nation’s priceless treasures.
Highlights: Artefacts such as the only remaining fragment of the Singapore Stone, the Mace of the City of Singapore, and William Farquhar’s natural history drawings are treasures of immense historical value that are displayed in the National Museum of Singapore. There are multiple special exhibitions related to Singapore’s history and culture all throughout the year too.
Sidenote: The National Museum is currently undergoing minor redevelopments and the permanent galleries will reopen in September 2015. The museum is still open to public with exhibitions celebrating Singapore’s history.
93 Stamford Road
Tel: +65 6332 3659
Daily: 10am – 6pm (Last entry at 5.30pm)
FOR THE COLLECTORS
#4 MINT MUSEUM OF TOYS
With iPads and iPhones the toy of choice for kids of the new millennia, one can only reminisce about the times when Wolverine fought Superman and Hot Wheels car races were everywhere. A time when imagination ran wild and the galaxy was the limit.
Many of us remember classic characters such as Popeye, Batman and Betty Boop, and how we used to always drag our parents to the uppermost floor of departmental stores (where the toy section is of course!) to ogle at the latest toys. The Mint Museum of Toys brings out your inner child with an impressive collection of toys from Star Wars to Micky Mouse and Betty Boop.
Highlights: They have an impressive collection of Popeye toys and also a rare collection of Mickey collectibles. Also noteworthy are their collection of dolls by Michael Lee and China-made toys and collectables.
26 Seah Street
Tel: +65 6339 0660
Tue to Sun: 9.30am – 6.30pm
PH: 9.30am – 4pm
Closed on 1st and 2nd day of the Lunar New Year
#5 SINGAPORE PHILATELIC MUSEUM
Have you ever waited patiently for people to open their mail, just to grab the envelope and soak it in water to ‘extract’ the stamp? Those were the days when emails were non-existent and letters were for work, catching up and creating love.
Stamp collecting may not be as popular now as it once was, but stamps were once essential for work, play and love. Although the museum is a little dated, the Philatelic museum boasts a collection of stamps which documents not only the history of stamps, but also unique stamps and how stamps which marked the major developments in Singapore over the years.
Highlights: On display is the Penny Black, the first stamp to be used in the world among many other unique stamps. Also interesting is the collection of stamps from Singapore, which documents our transition from a British colony to what we are today, a modern metropolis.
23-B Coleman Street
Tel: +65 6337 3888
Mon: 1pm – 7pm
Tue to Sun: 9.30am – 7pm
(Last entry at 6.30pm)
FOR THE TRADITIONALISTS
#6 PERANAKAN MUSEUM
Laksa, Buah Keluak, Babi Ponteh. Just hearing the names of these classic nonya dishes will probably leave one hungry and salivating. But probably one other local favourite would be most apt to describe the Peranakans—‘Rojak’. Just like a good bowl of Rojak, the Peranakans are a unique (and delicious!) blend of cultures which reflects their diverse heritage.
Housed in the old Tao Nan School, the Peranakan Museum gives you an insight into the life of a Peranakan. Explore the unique and sometime extravagant lifestyle of the affluent Nonyas and Babas. Every personal milestone is celebrated with precision and style, with customised porcelain wares and elaborate weddings, and this arises from the influence of the various cultures and traditions of the Indians, Chinese and Malays.
Highlights: Intrinsic beadwork tablecloths and shoes are classic Peranakan, together with a collection of Peranakan porcelain wares and an impressive display of Peranakan furniture that incorporates Western, Chinese, Malay and Indian influences.
39 Armenian Street
Tel: +65 6332 7591
Sat to Thu: 10am – 7pm
Fri: 10am – 9pm
Sidenote: There are two other museums in Singapore that also showcase the life of a Peranakan. The NUS Baba House and The Intans provide tours into the life of a Peranakan. Tours are by appointment only.
#7 HERITAGE CENTRE
The bustling port of Singapore and the promise of riches brought many of our forefathers to this tiny little island city. But do you know how they arrived and what they did?
Hidden in the bustling streets of Kampong Glam, Little India, Chinatown and Katong are four museums that many of us overlook. Pop over to colourful Little India where you can try on the different headdresses or travel back to the 60s at Kampong Glam for some bangsawan music.
The heritage centres tell the story of the major ethic groups in Singapore. Learn about whom they are, where they come from and the life of the people who were living in the area where the heritage centres are currently located.
Highlights: Admire the grandeur of the former residence of the sultan at the Malay Heritage Centre or the intricately carved wooden door at the Indian Heritage Centre, there is always something to see and do at the heritage centres. The locations of these heritage centres also add to the atmosphere of the museum, as though you have never stepped out of the museum even after you left it.
Sidenote: The Chinatown Heritage Centre is currently closed for renovation and will open near the end of the year.
Malay Heritage Centre
85 Sultan Gate
Tel: +65 6391 0450
Tue to Sun: 10am – 6pm (Last entry at 5.30pm)
Closed on Mon
Indian Heritage Centre
5 Campbell Lane
Tel: +65 6291 1601
Tue to Thu: 10am – 7pm
Fri & Sat: 10am – 8pm
Sun & PH: 10am – 4pm
Closed on Mon
Eurasian Heritage Centre
139 Ceylon Road
Tel: +65 6447 1578
Tue to Sun: 9am – 6pm
Closed on Mon
FOR THE ANTHROPOLOGIST
#8 ASIAN CIVILISATION MUSEUM
Great civilisations ruled the world before the dawn of democracy slowly but surely marked the demise of these great civilisations which were steeped in culture and key to the rise of mankind’s world domination.
Paying homage to the melting pot of cultures in the multi-ethic society in Singapore, the Asian Civilisation Museum has curated a vast collection of artefacts of our forefathers from the Chinese dynasties to the Javan and Indian empires. Artefacts from these empires were expertly curated to showcase the active trade between these civilisations, displaying an exchange of cultures and the spread of religion between civilisations.
Highlights: A Dragon robe from the Qing Dynasty and one of only two Pejeng-style Drum left in the world are just some of the many rare artefacts in the collection of the Asian Civilization Museum. The permanent galleries on Chinese, Southeast Asian and the Indian civilizations, as well as the ancient Islamic world are all very impressive.
1 Empress Place
Tel: +65 6332 7798
Sat to Thu: 10am – 7pm
Fri: 10am – 9pm
FOR THE ART AND DESIGN ENTHUSIAST
#9 RED DOT DESIGN MUSEUM
Ever been to Maxwell Hawker Centre for that famous chicken rice and wonder what that striking red building across the road is? No it is not a fire station, but actually a museum dedicated to the most creative product designs from all over the world.
The Red Dot Design Museum is a one stop paradise for the creatively inclined, or people looking for inspiration. Housed in a bright red, colonial style building is a expertly curated mix of product designs as diverse as kitchen utensils and furniture, to daily essentials and technological gadgets which are all winners of the highly coveted Red Dot Design Awards, an internationally renowned product design competition.
Highlights: The vibrant red colonial era building was formerly the headquarters for the Traffic Police as well as a driving test centre (far more iconic than the current test centres I would say!). The well preserved mailboxes at the entrance make for great photos and who would be bored by well-designed everything?
28 Maxwell Road
Tel: +65 6534 7194
Mon to Sun: 11am – 8pm
#10 SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM
Bring a friend who you know is into contemporary art, and watch them as they walk through the galleries and appreciate the pieces. Go with an open mind and you might just find yourself starting to appreciate the story behind the art displays. Inspiration can be drawn from just about anything. So who knows? A trip down to SAM may just be the start of a wonderful new journey, passion or interest!
Occupying the original St Joseph’s Institution, the Singapore Art Museum showcases its artworks over multiple galleries which were converted from old classrooms and also the mission school’s chapel. It boasts a collection of some of the world’s most important collections of Southeast Asian contemporary artworks.
Highlights: Most of the façade and interior of the former mission school has been expertly restored and converted into temperature-controlled art galleries. Different thematic exhibitions are curated from the SAM collection and in collaboration with other renowned international contemporary art museums, bringing you a fresh experience every time you visit.
71 Bras Basah Road
Tel: +65 6589 9580
Sat to Thu: 10am – 7pm
Fri: 10am – 9pm
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
#11 ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM
A walk along the Marina Bay and you would definitely not miss the iconic Marina Bay Sands. As iconic as the towers of Marina Bay Sands is the equally architecturally-impressive ArtScience Museum. Shaped like a freshly bloomed lotus flower emerging above the waters, this is one integral part of the cityscape that you will not miss.
The ArtScience Museum dedicates itself to travelling exhibitions focused on art, science, design, media, architecture and technology. The museum curates a collection of international exhibitions that are popular with visitors, with previous exhibition such as works from Da Vinci and Andy Warhol as well as dinosaurs and creatures of the deep. A small, resident exhibition “ArtScience Gallery” also showcases how creativity has helped artists and scientists in developing new, transformative products.
Highlights: The lotus flower shaped building is an architecture marvel in itself. Travelling exhibitions are generally popular with visitors and provides visitors with a wholesome experience that uses technology to complement artefacts.
6 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: +65 6688 8888
Daily: 10am – 7pm (Last entry at 6pm)
About the writer:
A nature lover, biologist and an avid photographer, Jeremy enjoys exploring the various trails and natural areas around Singapore, photographing interesting critters and documenting unique behaviours along his treks. Never one to shy away from an adventure, Jeremy is always keen to explore new natural areas in Singapore and to discover what hidden gems our nature areas have to offer.