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Singapore Heritage Culture & Museums

Evocative of Singapore's past as a trading port in the 17th century, Peranakans are the descendants of the early Chinese and South-Indian communities who settled in the Malay Archipelago. What has evolved overtime is a unique hybrid culture that is still part of Singapore's living heritage. Here are two attractions dedicated to the preservation of this unique culture.

Peranakan Museum

39 Armenian Street 6332-7591. City Hall
Thanks to its extensive collection of Peranakan artefacts, visitors can learn about the rituals, traditions and material culture of the Peranakans through this museum's intricate and innovatively presented displays. Interactive exhibits targeted at children ensure the whole family is in on the fun.

Baba House

157 Neil Road, (65) 6516-8817. Outram Park
Situated not far from Chinatown, this is the first heritage home in Singapore that provides visitors with the unique experience of visiting a 1920s Peranakan family home. After an exhaustive archaeological study and restoration works. The Baba House opened in 2008 and is possibly one of the last remaining houses with elaborate, original interiors intact. Most likely built in the second half of the 19th century, the museum-cum-gallery offers visitors a rare opportunity to touch, feel and enjoy Peranakan tastes and culture first-hand.

History and Culture

Singapore might be a relatively new country, but that doesn't stop us from having a rich history that's celebrated in these world-class institutions.

Asian Civilisations Museum

1 Empress Place, (65) 6332-7798. Raffles Place
Originally built in 1865 as a court house, this government building has housed the Registry of Births and Deaths, as well as the Singapore Mint. From 1989, it was known as the Empress Place Museum. It has been in its present guise since 2003 and today has over 10 thematic galleries showcasing 1,500 artefacts spanning five millennia of Asian cultures. Also at this stunning museum is the Singapore River Gallery, which expertly charts the rise, fall and subsequent rebirth of the nearby Singapore River.

National Museum of Singapore

93 Stamford road, (65) 6332-3659. Dhoby Ghaut
The National Museum of Singapore stands out as the architectural gem in the crown of Singapore's museums. After a recent renovation, it sits resplendent in the heart of the city as the largest museum in the country. Alongside the remarkable historical-based galleries, look out for the four Living Galleries detailing culture through the prisms of food, fashion, photography and film, and wayang (puppet theatre). The interactive elements, including touch-screen displays, smelling pods and oral histories as well as old film reels, immerse the visitor in a multi-sensory experience of Singapore's past.

Chinatown Heritage Centre

48 Pagoda Street, (65) 6338-6877. Chinatown
Relive the days of Singapore's early migrants at the Chinatown Heritage Centre. Comprising three restored shop houses in the cultural hub of Chinatown, Singapore's rich history unfolds as you explore exhibition spaces specially recreated to resemble the living quarters once inhabited by our Chinese forefathers.

Images of Singapore

40 Cable Car Road, Sentosa. (65) 6279-3284. Harbour Front
This museum offers a chronological exploration of Singapore's history, going as far back as the 14th century with the help of 21st-century technology. Multi-media displays, Iife-sized tableaux and rare artefacts cover aspects of Singapore's past, from the pre-colonial to post-colonial eras.

Malay Heritage Centre

85 Sultan Gate, (65) 639Ì -0450.
This centre occupies what was formerly the royal seat of the Malay sultans in Singapore. Built in 1842 by renowned architect George Coleman, it has been restored to its former glory and now houses artefacts, dioramas and multi-media displays of the local Malay culture. You can also learn about the colourful history of the Bugis people, who were seafaring traders from the Indonesian archipelago.

Singapore Art Museum

71 Bras Basah Road, (65)6332-3222. City Hall
Formerly Saint Joseph's Institution, a premier boy's school, this museum opened in 1996 and houses one of the foremost art destinations in the region. It has a collection of around 8,000 pieces of Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art Revel in its esoteric paintings, sculptures, multimedia installations, drawings, prints and photographs in both permanent and visiting exhibits. It has also showcased international exhibitions featuring artists ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Rodin.

Fort Siloso

33 Allanbrooke Road, Sentosa, (65) 6275-0388. www. Harbour Front
A relic from World War II, this is Singapore's only preserved coastal fort Built by British colonials in the 1880s, the fort now houses a large collection of World War II memorabilia with actual 17th-century artillery, life-sized replicas and interactive exhibits.

The Civilian War Memorial

War Memorial Park, Beach Road.
To the north of the Padang, you will find the Civilian War Memorial. Four pillars of similar size and structure rise more than 60 metres to symbolise the shared suffering of the four races-Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasians—who died during the years of the war and were buried here.

The Changi Museum

1000 Upper Changi Road North, (65) 6214-2451. www. Tanah Merah
The Japanese interred the Allied prisoners-of-war at the now demolished Changi Prison. While there, the POWs created a simple chapel in order to have a place of solace. The chapel was recreated in 1988 at Changi Prison and was later relocated to a nearby location in 2001 when the prison was pulled down. At its new site you can view photographs, drawings and letters created by the prisoners depicting their lives during this harrowing period.

The Kranji War Memorial

9 Woodlands Road. Kranji
The serene, manicured lawn of the Kranji War Memorial is home to 4,000 graves of the Allied Forces who died during the Japanese Occupation. The cemetery was a hospital burial ground during the Occupation and became a military cemetery after the war, when bodies from other parts of Singapore were exhumed and reburied here.

The Battle Box

51 Canning Rise, (65) 6333-0510. Dhoby Ghaut
The Battle Box in Fort Canning was the subterranean command centre of the British Malaya Command Headquarters during World War II. Its 22 chambers are linked by a corridor, and through the use of animatronics and special effects, you can relive the events of the morning of 15 February 1942—when the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese.

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

31K Pepys Road, (65) 6375-2510. Queenstown
Learn about the role played by two Malay Regiments in defending Singapore from the onslaught of the Japanese in the days leading up to the fall of Singapore. Located in a handsome colonial bungalow, the exhibits within depict Japanese invasion plans alongside British strategic maps, photographs and documents.

Memories at Ford Factory

351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, (65) 6332-7973. Bukit Batok
A former motorcar plant, this quaint art deco building was the site of the British surrender to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. After being left unoccupied for many years, the building was given a once over and turned into the eye-opening and detailed museum it is today. Stop by here to view relics, photographs, newspaper clippings and learn more about Singapore's past.

MINT Museum of Toys

26 Seah Street <6S) 6339-0660. City Hall
This museum is home to more than 50/500 toys, from Astroboy figurines to vintage collectibles. Don't miss out on the lovable one-of-a-kind treasures that date back to the 12th century. A visual feast, this place will wow both the young and old.

Singapore Philatelic Museum

23B Coleman Street (65) 6337-3888. City Halt
Reminisce about the good old days when you used to collect stamps and postcards. This former missionary school building once served as the school chaplain's house before it was converted into a bookshop. Restored in 1995, the museum shows how stamps are windows to the worlds of nature, culture and more.

Singapore History

As far as records show, Singapore's first-in-a-long-list-of names can be found in the 3rd century, when a Chinese account referred to it as "Pu-luo-chung" (otherwise translated from Chi nese as "island at the end of a peninsula"). Hardly anything else is written about our little island until the 14th century, when it was given the newer name of Temasek (Sea Town). The name Temasek is an apt description of the island, as it is located at the crossroads of sea routes at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. Indeed, even today, Singapore remains one of the busiest sea ports in the world.

It was not until later in the 14th century when a visiting royal prince mistook what was probably a tiger for a lion (lions were not indigenous to the country) that the island was named "Singa Pura" or "Lion City." Thus, Singapore's modern-day name was born.

It took until the 18th century for the next prominent chapter of Singapore's history to unveil itself—this time catalysed by the arrival of the British colonial forces They saw the need for a strategic "halfway house" to refit feed and protect the fleet of their growing empire.

It was against this political backdrop that Sir Stamford Raffles (whom the famous Raffles Hotel is named after) established Singapore as a trading station. The policy of free trade attracted merchants from all over Asia and from as far afield as the United States and the Middle East. By 1324 just five years after the founding of modern Singapore, the population had grown from a mere 150 to 10,000.

Other interesting historical facts and myths about Singapore

Local folklore has it that the last indigenous tiger in Singapore was shot in 1902 at Raffle Hotel. Some claimed that it was killed in the basement, while others said that it was gunned down the now famous long Bar (original home of the Singapore Sling, Singapore's most famous cocktail concocted in 1915 by Singaporean bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.)

In 1832, Singapore became the centre of government for the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore.

The opening of the Suez Canal n 1869 and the advent of the telegraph and Steamship increased Singapore's importance as a centre far the expanding trade between East and West.

Later, during World War II, Singapore was considered an impregnable fortress, but the Japanese overran the island in 1942.

After the war, Singapore became a Crown Colony. The growth of nationalism led to self-government in 1959 and on 9 August, 1965, Singapore became an independent republic.