Discovery Center through lens of time is a new permanent national education exhibition and display. Tucked within the grounds of Singapore armed forces Discovery Center in the SAFTI complex. This is a public-accessible portion of the Military institute. It is also home to the Singapore Army museum, a separate building and exhibit itself.
The displays follow through in a linear manner. It covers notable national security and defence related events in Singapore’s history Chronologically before independence. Your journey starts with an impressive cinematic video showcase shown over 6 projector screens. It introduces Singapore as an early fishing port, the colonisation and the disputes between various local clans.
World War 2 Japanese Occupation atrocities
Next, goes into Singapore’s dark history during the World war 2 Japanese Occupation. This sector is a relatively new exhibition and the highlight of the walkthrough. Here, it teaches an informs of the various misdeeds done by the Japanese during the war. Examples include public massacres, particularly the purging of local Chinese and the creation of secret biological labs right on Singapore itself.
Moreover, you are introduced to Operation Sook Ching. It saw the systematic purge of perceived hostile elements by the Japanese during the Japanese occupation from Feb to Mar 1942. Those targeted were mainly the Chinese Malayans and the Chinese.
Additionally, at the old Singapore General hospital used to create rat-based plagues within Singapore shores itself. These displays are load out in a rather impressive and detailed recreation of a war-torn and bombed out market street. It is notably complete with fallen pillars and debris (made out of safe painted styrofoam). Also, the displays lead into an audio visual theatre with a rather cool theming. Here, it shows the Japanese uprising, defence, and fall of Singapore to the end of the Japanese occupation.
With the idea of Singapore’s progress through the early histories of the Japanese occupation, the exhibits moves into showcasing notably more recent events of national security interests. These are select events in Singapore used as learning cases to tell the importance of Defence and National security.
This includes mainly national security efforts after the World War and post-independence. Examples includes the introduction and importance of the Singapore National Service (NS). This conscription system had been in effect since the formation of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Notable events of national security in Singapore
Moreover, from here, the section ends in a large hall with several exhibitions within. Here, it starts with a short mention of the first Malayan regiment who defended Singapore against the Japanese with their last stand at Bukit Chandu.
Moving on, there is a section on the McDonald house bombing. The provocative act of terror happened along Orchard Road on 10 March 1965, on the year of Singapore’s 1st independence. The deed was done by two Indonesian armed forces marine commando saboteurs, who were later sentenced to death by Singapore for the bombings. Till today, the event continued to be provocation points between Singapore and Indonesia.
1983 cable car incident
Furthermore, there is the 1983 cable car incident, where two cars fell into the sea after a tall oil drilling rig snagged the cables. Here, you can find a well-preserved first-generation cable car cabin taking center stage in the displays. It allows you to have a sit-in experience of the cable full-metal bodied cable cars.
The story of acts of bravery of the helicopters rescue mission are told on the surrounding infomatic walls. Interestingly here, you are able to see photos of rather young Lee Heisn Loong, Singapore current prime minster leading the planning chart of the rescue effort.
Lastly, a news broadcast section wraps up the tail end of the exhibition. It does seems rather out of place. I guess it goes with the local news reporting theme. Here, you can have a go in front of a green screen to narrate a live news reporting through a scripted teleprompter.
SAFTI bus tour
Being situated on SAF SAFTI grounds, the discovery center sits right within the compounds of the Officer cadet school which you can do a bus tour. Also, at the end of your Discovery center tour, you exit from the exhibition into the attraction gift shop and back into the attraction main lobby and ticketing counter area. Notably, there is also a theather, laser tag and 4D theather here too.
Furthermore, this lobby is where the SAFTI bus tour departs too. It brings you through the inner SAF leadership training grounds. Landmarks here include the SAFTI tower, parade square, accommodation as well as administrative buildings and the SAFTI library. However, due to heightened security in the SAFTI complex at present day, driving private vehicles into the school compound, neither are you able to disembark form the bus to visit the SAFTI tower or library as a member of the public.
In addition, the tour is conducted on-bus and led by a local guide. Bonus points if your guide served with familiarity of the area. The guided tours depart twice daily on weekdays on 3:00pm, 5:00pm, and on 4 sessions on weekends and public holidays (11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm, 5:00pm). It is an active training ground and is notably busier on weekday where the cadets and staff are in. The air-conditoned bus tour takes about an hour to 90mins.
That’s all folks
All in all, you are good for visiting the Discovery Center through lens of time as a half day afternoon day trip. It location is accessible and well served by the nearby Joon Koon MRT station (EW29). The station is situated about a block away and home to the Fairprice warehouse hub we visited previously. Parking is available at an affordable $1.20/hr. Crowds are generally light which makes exploring the exhibits a joy. Definitely one for a day out!