Published on 18 September 2017

The National Museum of Singapore commemorates the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore with “Witness to War: Remembering 1942”, featuring never-before-seen artefacts and untold accounts of the fall of Singapore.

By Melanie Lee

“Witness to War: Remembering 1942” opens later this week (23 September) to reveal a rich and complex world of untold stories that goes beyond the traditional portrayals of World War Two. Held at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), this international blockbuster exhibition took two years to put together in close consultation with the community and partnerships with over 10 museums and institutions around the world.

Star Artefacts

Lieutenant General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s katana (Image courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)
Silk pincushion (Image courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

Many of the war artefacts have not been viewed in Southeast Asia before. Don’t miss the chance to view the sword of General Tomoyuki Yamashita – it’s the first time it’s being displayed out of the United States since 1945! Another fascinating exhibit is a 1941 silk pincushion on loan from the Australian War Memorial. It belonged to an Australian soldier based in Singapore during the lead-up to the war. He had bought it as a souvenir from Singapore to send back to loved ones.

Everyday Singaporeans Share Their War Memories

Dr Lim Bo Seng's children (Image courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)
Image Courtesy of the National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board

This exhibition features four themed story pods containing war accounts from ordinary Singaporeans. For example, Madam Leow Oon Geok and Dr Lim Whye Geok, children of war hero Lim Bo Seng, recount their childhood memories of their father going away to support anti-Japanese resistance efforts and how they felt when they lost their father to the war. “This is the first time that the National Museum has collected war stories on such a large scale…we felt the urgency to record these war memories before they become lost and forgotten,” says Angelita Teo, Director of NMS.

From Old to Young

D. Paranitharan and Shahrul Izhan with Mr Balasamy Chetty (Image courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

For the first time, NMS involved students in the exhibition-making process by getting them to archive war survivors’ experiences. Says Sarah Yip, Manager, Curatorial and Outreach at NMS, “We started this project to encourage the younger generation – most of whom have primarily learnt about the war through their history textbooks – to hear first-hand accounts of history from the people who made it.” Riverside Secondary School student D. Paranitharan, who got to interview his grandfather for this exhibition, says, “I’m happy his account was documented as I never knew that his personal experiences were so unique and valuable before embarking on this project.”

There will also be programmes for families and history buffs – including guided tours in English, Mandarin and Japanese, a cooking demonstration of wartime recipes from cookbook author Christopher Tan, and storytelling sessions by master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran.

“Witness to War: Remembering 1942” will be on at the National Museum of Singapore from 23 September 2017 to 25 March 2018. Click here for more details.

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