SB2006 SB2006
Getting to & Around Singapore

National Museum of Singapore
93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
National Museum National Museum National Museum


Formerly Raffles Library and Museum, built physically on Stamford Road in 1887 by the Colonial Office of the Straits Settlements through the orchestration of Governor Frederick Weld. The establishment of a public repository of knowledge for the Malayan world in the form of a school, a museum and a library, was largely a result of a meeting called by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1823 to discuss the need to revive the cultural heritage of the region.

Well known for its zoological and ethnographic collections of insular Southeast Asia, in particular, Malaya, British Borneo, before World War II, the Raffles Museum was the centre of research and knowledge. Successive directors and curators were by and large specialists of good research accomplishments, including zoologists R Hanitsch, John C Moulton, Cecil Boden Kloss, and anthropologists HD Collings of the pre-World War II period, and Gibson-Hill, whose wide interests went beyond his own field of ornithology and included Malay history, ethnography, as well as photography. As the seat of the editorial office of the Journal of the Malayan Branch of Royal Asiatic Studies, the Museum was frequently visited by scholars en route to their fieldwork in Malaya and Indonesia. Significant collections deposited under such circumstances included a selection of northern Nias objects from the fieldtrips of A Modigliani, as well as basketwork gifted by Dr William L Abbott, who was collecting during the first decade of the 20th century for the United States National Museum, which became part of the Smithsonian later.

The reputation of the Raffles collection and research integrity won the sympathy of the Japanese officers -in-charge and hence protected the Museum from otherwise devastating destructions during the Japanese Occupation, 1942 - 1945.

The Raffles Museum was renamed National Museum in 1969, and its collection focus changed to compliment Singapore's nation-building oriented culture policy. The collection of the zoological materials was dispersed to the biological department of University of Malaya and Singapore, and repatriated to national museums in such former British colonies as in Calcutta and Kuala Lumpur. One of the most iconic artifacts of the pre-1969 period was the skeleton of a blue whale, which washed ashore at Port Dickson, Melaka in 1893 and displayed subsequently 10 years later, imprinted itself into the collective memory of generations of Singaporeans.

The new National Museum functioned with the remaining collections of archaeological materials, Chinese and Southeast Asian ethnographica, a nucleus of local works of art, portraits of social luminaries and former governors. The National Museum Art Gallery was opened on the upper floor of the 1907 extension to accommodate the exhibition needs of a growing community of artists working in Singapore. The History of Singapore Gallery was formally created in 1984 after the Museum underwent major refurbishment.

Since 1987, a new era of museum building was ushered in with the endorsement by the Ministry of Community Development of a long-term development plan submitted by the a task force chaired by architect Tay Kheng Soon. The paper called for the establishment a museum precinct comprising a number of museums on special themes. This became the blueprint of the National Heritage Board (NHB), formed under the National Heritage Act in August 1993. The NHB was tasked to develop, in former colonial public buildings with the core collections of the National Museum, a series of new museums, namely, the Singapore Art Museum at the old St Joseph Institute in Bras Basah Road (January 1996), the Asian Civilisations Museum at the old Tao Nan School building in Armenian Street (April 1997), and Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place Building (Empress Place, March 2003). During this period of museum building, the National Museum premises at Stamford Road was renamed Singapore History Museum. It was closed and underwent major renovation with a second extension between 2003 and 2006. It will reopen in December 2006 as the National Museum of Singapore, with an additional 10,000 sqm of floor space, including a permanent gallery dedicated to the history of Singapore.

From now till December, a series of Preview Season events will be presented at the Museum prior to its official opening on 7th December 2006.


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Aside from programs under the umbrella of the Biennale, there is plenty for Biennale visitors to see & do in Singapore! Established since 1996, the Museum Roundtable seeks to develop a stronger museum-going culture in Singapore while positioning museums as unique and fascinating cultural destinations.