Story of the forest is a permanent sensory exhibition in the Singapore National Museum. It brings you in touch with nature via digital projection and an exhibition area. Let’s see what’s on show.
Your journey starts on the museum’s second floor Annex. This top floor open space is part of the modern extension of the museum. It connects to the main old museum building via a skybridge with swinging pendulum lights.
Also, you might remember it as the spot of the secondary galleries of this year’s world press photos. You enter this gallery via the museum second floor hall. You might remember the spot being the hall used to hold various minor exhibition events like the World press photos exhibition.
Round rotunda digital showcase
Furthermore you enter rotunda through thick heavy curtains. Here, a walking bridge with a 180-degree seamless rooftop dome projection greets you at the entrance behind the first heavy curtains.
Also, it tad looks like an IMAX theater dome projection by multiple small projectors. The gallery perfume scent adds to the refreshing nature ambience within.
It used to be part of the Singapore Gallery
Notably, this round rotunda used to be the grand entrance of the museum’s original Singapore Gallery exhibition when it first opened. Back then, the galleries start with a visual showcase of early Singapore before transiting down into a kampung fishing village exhibit. This kampung is now the main entrance of the Singapore gallery at the museum first floor. Also, the Singapore gallery today has it entrance on the ground floor, leaving the Rotunda with its own exhibition space.
Carrying here behind another set of thick curtains heading on a downward slope. As you move down a spiral slope form the top of the rotunda, it brings you through a walk-through time. It starts with Singapore’s colonial past in contrast to its present-day modernity via nature.
Also, the video showcases several scenes of natural wildlife in Singapore. The Forest Story is re-created from artworks into immersive 3D animations. This includes plant flora with animals in their natural forest habitat.
Furthermore, you are not mistaken if you remember the Natural History Drawings from the William Farquhar Collection. You might had seen them at the Museum’s second floor sub-gallery or even those at the Raffles Collection at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History museum at NUS.
Moreover, 69 drawings from the William Farquhar Collection were transformed into this digital animations exhibit, created by the renowned Japanese digital art collective teamLab.
Rotunda Vast chill space
In addition, at the bottom of the museum’s Glass Rotunda is a vast chill 8-meter diameter space. It sits directly below the entry bridge of the attraction entrance. The ramp essential encircles outside the tower before allowing you to pop back into it at the ground floor. Also, this modern Rotunda glass building is a nod to the museum’s 19th-century neo-Palladian Rotunda. You can find the original in the adjacent museum building.
Here, you are treated to a virtual forest landscape. A seamless 360-degree video projection runs couple with audio and sensory smells of the forest. Also, the forest animation loops in a cycle with trees seen growing and disappearing as various animals make and call their homes. Also, you can spot several animated wildlife of the Malay Peninsula in the 19th century up close and personal here. Notably, creature comforts like seating and beanbags here were removed given Covid-19 safe distancing measures.
When you are done marveling at the nature projections, you move onto the next gallery. The closing gallery beyond the bottom glass rotunda space leads to a small photo exhibition called Very Old Tree.
Singapore, Very Old Tree Exhibition
The Very Old Tree exhibition is a photo exhibition produced by renowned local photographer and artist Robert Zhao Renhui. This exhibition showcases 17 images of trees around Singapore, and the various background of large trees and the site they sit on.
Also, it highlights the unique histories of each tree. It provides an interestingly alternative perspective of Singapore’s natural history, told through personal community stories by Singaporeans who grew up with each local tree.
Additionally, the photographs are displayed within back-lit panels in a dark environment. Notable photos includes trees in mature and new estates. This includes two large trees in the Nee Soon forest, as well as trees in heartland parks. Notable ones includes mature trees in Bugis, and even the Angsana tree which still sits in front of the school of the arts (SOTA). The mature Angsana tree, preserved on-site during SOTA’s construction.
Interestingly, an old 1904 postcard inspired the exhibition. It depicts an unspecified tree found in the National Archives of Singapore. Henceforth, the nature exhibition was commissioned as a display in celebration of the nation’s SG50 celebrations and the Singapore Memory Project.
Back to the Singapore gallery at level one.
Wrapping up the exhibition exits out into the Museum’s Singapore Gallery Malay fishing village on the museum’s first floor. Here, you can choose to proceed left to continue the hour-long exhibition or exit right past the Singapore stone back to the museum lobby.
All in all, you are good for the small exhibition for about half an hour tops. 93 Stamford Road is open daily with opening times 10am to 7pm. Entry to the Story of the Forest and the Old tree exhibition are free for Singaporeans and Permanent residents. Do remember to get an entry sticker at the museum ticketing counter before entering the galleries.