After learning about Singapore for an entire semester I thought there was nothing else I could learn about the small city-state. Singapore was originally a colonial trade city with a deep port that was “discovered” by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. After many years of British colonial rule the country gained independence in 1964 and has rapidly developed into the global city is it today.
The Heritage Galleries at the National Museum of Singapore is a comprehensive and interactive exhibit that tells a much deeper story of the nation, from its pre-colonial roots to the diverse international metropolis it has become. At the start of our self-guided tour we were given a “companion”; an electronic information guide with headphones that would provide information which corresponds to numbered pictures, artifacts, and videos. After an impressive multimedia show featuring a specially commissioned musical piece that highlighted everyday life in Singapore, we were presented with a choice to explore paths of the galleries that highlighted personal stories in the history of the country, or a path that highlighted historical events.
I chose the path of personal stories because I wanted to explore the ordinary (and not so ordinary) people that contributed to the country’s history and who were essentially the deciders of Singapore’s fate. Contrary to my original expectation, I learned a lot about people like Sean Eu Chin, who was a model of social mobility for the Chinese, and Yusef Ishak who fought for the rights of Malays in issues like education and became the first non-British Head of State. There were also stories of girl soldiers in WWII, a women who spoke out on the plight of Muslim women, and the first great leader of the independent nation, Lee Kwan Yew.
The historical and personal paths crossed each other a few times so I was able to have access to a large range of information and there were endless opportunities to key the number of an artifact or picture into our companion to find out more about it. In fact, it’s simply impossible to see everything there is to see in that gallery, at least not in one day. The Heritage Galleries were an eye opening look into the past of Singapore and definitely gave me some insight on how the country was able to achieve what it has in such a short time.
After the Museum we walked around the colonial center of Singapore, stopping at the lavish Raffles Hotel and finishing our tour with a breathtaking view of Singapore’s skyline and some of the newer developments by the shore. We are learning something new every day here and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us this week in Malaysia!
P.S.- we are now in Kuala Lumpur which is wonderful, but we don’t have reliable Internet service so I will be posting pictures to go with this post soon!