Despite being an ultra-modern country and the most successful country in Southeast Asia, Singapore holds some of the most interesting histories from the arrival of the British to the settlement of the Chinese and other nations which now lives in Singapore.
So, squeeze in some time in your schedule while you are in Singapore for some history lesson. Don’t worry, we have curated the must-visit history museums on the island.
1. National Museum of Singapore
Being the city’s oldest museum, the National Museum of Singapore dates back to 1887, when it was first opened as Raffles Library and Museum. The building is situated along Stamford Road with 19th-century Neo-Palladian architecture. Today, visitors are served with cutting-edge galleries filled with interactive exhibitions that tell the story of Singapore from as early as the 13th century, before the arrival of the British.
2. Singapore Art Museum
Situated along Bras Basah Road, the Singapore Art Museum displays a rotating collection of contemporary artwork from both local and Southeast Asian artists. The colonial-looking building was once St. Joseph’s Institution; Singapore’s first Catholic school.
The neighbouring extension building, SAM at 8Q on Queen Street was the former Catholic High School which has been completely renovated and is used for film screenings. The museum has also been appointed as the organiser for Singapore Biennale, a contemporary art biennale that showcases some of the best contemporary artworks from Southeast Asia.
3. National Gallery Singapore
The former Supreme Court Building and City Hall combined is what makes the 64,000 square metres of the National Gallery Singapore. The gallery itself becomes an architectural masterpiece and conservation space. It is home to over 8,000 modern Southeast Asian artworks which is the world’s largest public collections.
It is also the largest visual arts venue and museum in Singapore. The gallery highlights the key works of some pioneer Singaporean artists such as Georgette Chen, Cheong Soo Pieng, and Liu Kang.
Some visitors admit to having spent about half a day wandering the museum. If your time is limited, you may go straight to the inaugural exhibit “Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore Since the 19th Century." Also, you might want to consider buying your tickets online in advance to avoid lines, especially on the weekends.
4. Asian Civilisations Museum
This museum shines a spotlight on Singapore’s multicultural roots with its impressive collection of artefacts. Here, you can discover the many ethnicities living modern-day Singapore and their origins. Its collection started with mostly ethnological artefacts from the Raffles Library and Museum (now the National Museum of Singapore), but now it has been combined with Chinese, West Asian, Islamic, and Southeast Asian objects.
Since 2003, ACM took over the neoclassical Empress Place which sits at the mouth of the Singapore River. It is a fitting location as the river was once the centre of trade with the rest of the world.
5. Peranakan Museum
The Peranakan Museum highlights a unique hybrid culture that expands between Singapore and the Malayan region. Peranakan is a result of intermarrying of indigenous Malay communities and immigrant Chinese traders hundreds of years ago. Inside this converted Chinese school built in 1912 is the best collection of Peranakan artefacts and interactive multimedia exhibiting the story of Peranakan history in Singapore.