The Insider’s Guide to Museums

Published on 3 February 2015

Museum visits can be way more enriching than you imagine.
Here’s what the brochures don’t tell you!


Dancing on butter, spicy encounters, eerie ritualistic tools, hopscotch on stamps…. Bet you never expected to find all these and more at the local museums. Join us as we toss out the brochures and create our own list of fun things to do at some of Singapore’s favourite historical and cultural galleries.

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: Asian Civilisations Museum

WHY Ancient Asian spiritual practices can be downright fascinating and the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is a treasure trove of age-old artefacts that will send your imagination into overdrive. That, coupled with the fact that it is all housed in one of Singapore’s oldest buildings, make for an interesting outing. You could possibly find inspiration for your next Halloween costume here.

WHAT For atmospheric effect, visit special exhibit, Beginning of the Becoming: Batak Sculpture From Northern Sumatra, after sundown. The lack of natural sunlight and shadowy muted lighting create just the right ambience to experience the North Sumatra Batak culture, known for its fearsome headhunting and shamanistic practices. Particularly intriguing are actual ancient tunggal panaluan, staffs used by shamans. Even as you lean closer to examine the carvings of human and demonic creatures, let thoughts of witch doctors, human sacrifices and supernatural worlds send tingles down your spine.

WHERE 1 Empress Place, opens daily 10am-7pm (till 9pm on Fri). Free admission.

PHOTOS Asian Civilisations Museum

GREAT FOR FIRST DATES: National Museum of Singapore

WHY Ditch the usual movie-and-meal routine for a stroll around the National Museum of Singapore. With so many galleries to explore and so much to captivate the attention, you can easily keep the fun and conversation flowing. Plus, the Museum’s inviting spaciousness offers an oasis from the hustle and bustle of mall traffic.

WHAT Visit the Singapura: 700 Years exhibit, which traces Singapore’s growth from her pre-colonial days. Check out the interactive exhibits together, tease your date with the aroma of spices (traded in Singapore) and let the various video exhibits provide opportunities to huddle together on intimate benches. You can carry on the museum experience by having a romantic dinner on site: Food for Thought for a casual meal; Chef Chan’s Restaurant for fine Cantonese dining or Flutes for modern-European chic.

WHERE 93 Stamford Road, opens daily 10am-6pm. Free admission for Singapore Citizens
& Permanent Residents. Foreign visitors: $6 (adult), $3 (student with valid student pass).

PHOTO National Museum of Singapore

CHASE THE COOL: Singapore Art Museum

WHY Counter-culture, progressive and hip — that’s how we’d describe both the Singapore Art Museum and the trend-spotting hipsters who trawl its galleries.

WHAT Peruse the Medium at Large exhibit, themed around unconventional media used to create art. Keep a lookout for Melati Suryodarmo’s Exergie — Butter Dance, which includes a series of photos and a videographic record of the Indonesian performance artist dancing (and falling a lot) on butter. As absurd as it sounds, the work went viral online and earned the praise of performance artist extraordinaire Marina Abramovic. The New York Times and Huffington Post all agree that Suryodarmo is an artist to watch out for.

WHERE 71 Bras Basah Road, opens daily 10am-7pm (till 9pm on Fri). Free admission for Singapore Citizens & Permanent Residents. Foreign visitors: $10 (adult), $5 (student with valid student pass).

PHOTO  Singapore Art Museum

WORK THAT APPETITE: Peranakan Museum

WHY Because Peranakans take their food, and its seductively sedap mix of flavours, very seriously.

WHAT Proceed to Gallery Three where Peranakan food culture is featured and tok panjang (festive feasting) is the star. Elaborate table setting, ambient sounds and mouth-watering descriptions of Peranakan favourites will leave you hungering for more. You’ll want to make a stop at True Blue Pantry on the first floor after your visit. The café sells and serves Peranakan nibbles that are perfect for tea. Try the pineapple tarts: while regular ones are only an inch big, those served here are double the size.

WHERE 39 Armenian Street, opens 10am-7pm (till 9pm on Fri). Free admission for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents. Foreign visitors: $6 (adult), $3 (concession), 50 per cent discount on Fri, 7pm-9pm.

PHOTO  Peranakan Museum

BOND WITH FAMILY: Singapore Philatelic Museum

WHY Bright, cheery and full of interactive activities, everything is family-oriented at the Singapore Philatelic Museum. Put aside any assumption that stamp-collecting is boring because the museum does an excellent job of creating little nooks and fun corners that encourage curiosity and exploration.

WHAT Explore the Room of Rarities, which showcases the best of Singapore stamps and assorted postal matter. Postal stamps may not feature much in a child’s life today, but there’s no reason why kids can’t learn more about these squares of gummed labels. Browse stamps and archival philatelic material from the 1800s to the present, as well as artefacts related to Singapore’s postal history. After all that serious stuff, have fun on the hopscotch grid made of stamps, located in a hallway at the far end of the first floor.

WHERE 23B Coleman Street, opens 9.30am-7pm (Tue-Sun), 1pm-7pm (Mon). Free admission for Singapore Citizens & Permanent Residents.  Foreign visitors: $6 (adult), $4 (child 3-12 years old).

PHOTO Singapore Philatelic Museum
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