Museum and Gallery Guide

Explore 700 years of Singapore history at new exhibit

By Zaki JufriEvents - 28 October 2014 5:01 PM | Updated 23 March 2015

Explore 700 years of Singapore history at new exhibit

Here is a piece of information to chew on: A meal of rice, rabbit curry and brinjal cost just 15 cents in Singapore in 1947.

Or how about this one to store in your general knowledge bank: A giant rock formation called Long Ya Men or Dragon Tooth Gate, located just off the south coast of Singapore, used to guide seafarers into what is known now as Keppel Bay? 

Or that even although Singapore achieved full independence in 1965, its history goes way back to 1299, the year that its first ancient king Sri Tri Buana or Sang Nila Utama established the island as an important port settlement?

These are just a few of many more things visitors will discover at ‘Singapura: 700 Years’, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.

From 28 October onwards, history buffs may travel back in time to learn and rediscover Singapore’s 700-year history.

“This exhibition is very timely because we will celebrate Singapore 50th year of independence next year. Through this exhibition, we want to remind people that Singapore has more than 700 years of history,” National Museum director Angelita Teo said.

The exhibition will present Singapore’s defining moments through seven centuries in six sections, namely 'Archaeology in Singapore', 'Ancient Singapore (1300-1818)', 'Colonial Singapore (1819-1942)', 'Syonan-To (1942-1945)', 'Road to Merdeka (1946-1965)', and “Independent Singapore (1965-1975)'.

Rare porcelain compass from the 14th century excavated from Fort Canning Hill (left), glass beads and globules indicating existence of craft workshops around Fort Canning Hill vicinity in 14th century (right)


One of the highlights of the show is the 'Archaeology in Singapore' exhibit. Presented as an archaeological dig site, the exhibit – a collaboration between the museum and the Institute of South East Asian Studies, introduces the main show.

Senior assistant director Jervais Choo said: “This exhibit serves as a prologue of sorts for the rest of the exhibition and to highlight that Singapore does have an archaeological history, of which a lot of people are not aware."

Since 1984, some 19 sites around Singapore have been excavated, unearthing ancient artefacts such as a rare porcelain compass and glass beads and globules that suggest the existence of craft workshops within the Fort Canning Hill area in the 14th century.

The Singapore Stone that shows signs that the island history dates back to the 14th century, Iskander Mydin, the museum’s deputy director of curation and collections, says

Other highlights from the exhibition include the Singapore Stone, an important relic of the island's pre-colonial history, reproductions of the original treaties between the British and Sultan Hussein of Johor, as well as three detailed dioramas from the exhibition venue’s previous incarnation as the Singapore History Museum in the 1990s. 

Visitors get to walk through a mock-up of a Changi prison cell to see how prisoners-of-war used to live. There are also sketches drawn by W R M Haxworth, a former police inspector who was interned in Changi Prison in World War II.


Visitors to the exhibition will have an interactive experience.
 One is that they may cast a vote to decide Singapore's merger with Malaya, take a history quiz, walk through a Changi prison cell to see how prisoners-of-war survived the Japanese Occupation, immerse themselves in a student demonstration during tumultuous post-war Singapore, or listen to real-life accounts of people who lived through those years.

A void deck typically found at the ground level of government-built blocks of flats from the 1965 to 1975 has also been reconstructed, complete with chess tables and chess sets, as well as a mini playground setting. 

A void deck setting in the 'Independent Singapore (1965-1975)' exhibit

Iskander Mydin, the museum’s deputy director of curation and collections, said: “History can be a dry subject. 
What we have here is presenting important nuggets of history with context such as props, artefacts, infographics and sounds to make the exhibition more engaging and immersive."

‘Singapura: 700 Years’ | Date: 28 Oct 2014 - 10 Aug 2015 | Time: 10am -6pm | Venue: Exhibition Galleries 1 & 2, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road | Free for Singapore citizens, $6 for foreign visitors

SINGAPURA: 700 Years

SINGAPURA: 700 Years

Date Oct 28, 2014 - Aug 10, 2015

VenueNational Museum of Singapore