700 years of Singapore is a temporary exhibition at the Singapore National Museum, bringing you on a journey through six sections back in time into iconic events in Singapore’s transformation from a humble fishing village, the pride of an empire, to an independent nation-state it is today, 700 years back. The exhibition runs from 28th Oct 2014 to 10th Aug 2015 is open daily from 10am 6pm in the museum’s basement (Exhibition Galleries 1 and 2). Admission is free for citizens, permanent residents, and visitors aged six years and below, but admission charges do apply for international visitors priced at $6 for adults, and $3 for students and seniors aged 60 and above. Let’s begin on the tour!
Archaeology in Singapore
The exhibits bring you through series of key events in Singapore chronologically. The tour starts outside the halls with the Archaeology in Singapore, showcasing most of Singapore’s little-known archaeological excavations scene since it started in 1984. Artifacts on show are mostly dated from 1300 to 1818 with excavated artifacts unearthed found mostly from the Botanic Gardens and Mount Faber archaeological sites, some items are claimed to be even dated back to as early as the 10th century AD. The archaeological scene is still an ongoing work-in-progress in Singapore, which a current dig going on at a site in front of the Asian civilizations museum. The exhibits also feature an activity area, allowing you to learn how archaeological site surveys, evaluations and excavations taking place.
Moving on the second part of the tour brings you the 1819 to 1942 era of Colonial Singapore, just before World war II. Catch a glimpse of Temasek Singapore, the time where Singapore is prosperous trading settlement under five legendary Malay kings. Learn the life of a typical rickshaw rider, security guard or a wealthy British merchant. Also you also get to learn about mysterious figures such as the Parameswara and Iskandar Shah, as well as the following Javanese invasion which laid the island to waste. The arrival of the British in 1819 turned Singapore into an international port, attracting migrants from across the world, each with their own specific contributions and how the different communities lived and worked together under colonial rule.
Prosperous times came to an end with onset of the Japanese Occupation (Syonan-To) from 1942 to 1945. See what Singapore endured under the Japanese occupation during World War II. Decked in blood red, the exhibits paints the gruesome setting of war when the Japanese invaded Singapore. This section is one of the better liad-out exhibits. Learn about how the Brave souls who stayed and defended the Nation, despite the withdrawal and surrender of British troops. With the rise of the Japanese comes the forced introduction of Japanese polices, school and infamous banana money. Get a glimpse of mass screening exercises, the lack of food and supplies and a walk into a Changi prison of how prisoners of war survived those years.
Road to Merdeka
The road to Singapore’s Independence (Merdeka) from the 1946 to 1965 was a difficult one, follow the country’s path from its post-war ruins to the political awakenings that resulted in its merger with Malaya. There is a lot of reading in this section, witness the recreated student demonstrations, and read on the various political parties involved in Singapore’s early elections, political decisions and the eventual separation form Malaya, bringing about Independent Singapore in 1965.
Following Singapore’s Independence on 1965 under the rule of the newly elected People’s Action Party (PAP), this last section explains very briefly Singapore’s transformation from a third world country into a first world then to the mid-1970s. It is simply a taste of life in the decade following Singapore’s independence through rather few iconic events and artifacts of the era. Visit a 1970s-inspired HDB living room (Successor to Singapore Improvement Trust) complete with a then accurate television sets and explore a void deck and playable mock-up playground from the old days. If you grew up in the era, you will recognize old mascots such as the POSB squirrel and hilarious early population policies such as “2 is enough”.
Exiting this last section will bring you back out into Archaeology exhibits backs in the Museum basement. I was told by the museum this 700 years exhibition will be an update to the current “History of Singapore” permanent exhibition, which is presently closed until September for a major refurbishment. I will be looking forward to when that permanent exhibition will be updated with items from this exhibition, it’s about time that legacy permanent exhibition is updated too.
Till then, love your local museums and take care!