The Lee Kuan Yew Memoriam exhibition is currently held at the National Museum of Singapore as a temporary exhibition set up at the Museum’s atrium section. It covers notable items and photographs the Lee family has opened up to shared publicity on the less-seen private life of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It covers Mr Lee’s life from his formative years as a student in the University of Cambridge, his involvement in the 1950s anti-colonial struggle, including seeing through Singapore’s road to Merdeka, to his final years of service as Senior Minister and Minister Mentor. Despite news of a 4 hour wait on opening days, entry to the exhibits now was fast and smooth-flowing, especially on a weekend. A typical wait to enter the exhibition area won’t expect to exceed a 30 minute waiting queue. This is also considering that the exhibition is now extended to May 24th, greatly reducing the crowd turn out.
The displays are rather professionally made and laid out through a combination of physical items, and printed information walls telling a pictorial story in a chronological order. At the start of the gallery, you will be greeted by his personal belongings and documents, including the “battleship” telegram, a Rolex Oyster perpetual watch- a gift by the unionists of Singapore Union of Postal and Telecommunications in 1953, as well as a Barrister wig and container upon his admission to the Bar. These “hot exhibits” if needed, have a limited timed viewing period for crowd regulation.
Other notable items will include the Red ministerial briefcase box (Mid-20th Century) used by Mr Lee during this political office as well as the Rosewood rostrum which he used to deliver his annual National Day rally speeches. These mentioned wall-lined displays are laid out each with a combination of written illustration, as well as their own set of black and white photos telling the tale of the yesteryears. The museum had did a good job in restoring the old analog film photos and blowing them up for the digital print without much loss in quality. Kudos to them on that! The museum has also provided for free for each visitor an exhibition pamphlet, which also doubles up as an illustrative exhibition guide for all the items on display.
The display ends with a memorial-like podium flanked by specially-selected 500 condolence cards from the 18,000 written at the Parliament before the state funeral. The exhibition was very well received, drawing over 11,000 visitors over a period of five days. However, there could be more items on display, the lack of content gives visitors an impression of an incomplete showcase, and a tingling sense that the exhibit were put up quickly in a rush. To bring more value for the people to understand more of Mr Lee beyond his achievements, I feel there should be more emphasis on his less-seen life, and not simply just a Wikipedia iteration of his achievements which exhibits pretty much just follows. Mr Lee achievements are indisputable, but I found the quality of the displays too simplistic and does not do justice for a tribute to a great man of sophistication like Mr Lee.
Having said that, there could be more exhibits on display, particularly covering more of his life in-depth with more audio-visual elements. Hopefully we can see more new coverage of Mr Lee with the inclusion of these temporary galleries incorporated into the museum’s permanent galleries (i.e. the History of Singapore/700 years of Singapore galleries) that will reopen in September this year.