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Singapore, a small country with a big past, fully understands the significance of Churchill’s remark. Those who run the island city-state have taken steps to ensure that the nation’s history is recorded in several museums that are not only well preserved but very professionally managed.

One is the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), a treasury of the past that stands boldly amidst the onslaughts of consumerism and modernism.

The NMS now looks even bolder and more determined – not to mention sophisticated and high-tech – following a thorough renovation that started in April 2003 and expanded it to nearly 20,000 square meters.

“Many modern buildings in Singapore get built in less than three years. After a while, Singaporeans began to get impatient waiting for the NMS renovation to finish,” notes Mohamed Hamim, a Singapore Tourism Board official.

sin2“The NMS is both our largest and oldest museum and the most modern. It redefines what we mean by a museum.”

The renovated NMS was inaugurated by Singapore’s President S R Nathan and Minister of Information, Communication, Art and Culture Lee Boon Yang on 7 December 2006.

Despite the total renovation, the NMS has maintained its original architecture, while adding new facilities and exhibition galleries. There is an Indonesian touch in the new wooden windows, which were installed to ensure that natural light enters the building.

Flashback: In 1823, Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, met with his staff to discuss efforts to conserve the history and culture of Southeast Asia.

Nearly 30 years later, in 1849, that meeting produced what was then called the Raffles Library and Museum, where historical items were displayed.

In 1965, when Singapore achieved independence, the museum shifted its attention to the nation’s history and changed its name to the National Museum of Singapore (NMS).

Now, the NMS is an architectural icon, fusing the past and the present in one location. Far more than just a complex providing exhibition space and storing historical artifacts dating as far back as the 1400s, the NMS is committed to being different by presenting various festivals and events. This enhances Singapore’s cultural attractions; foreign visitors no longer have to make shopping their top priority when visiting Singapore.

The NMS has several permanent features that it would be a cultural crime to miss seeing.

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Singapore History Gallery
This space, nearly 3000 square meters, presents the story of Singapore from the 14th century to the present using super-sophisticated equipment – a handheld electronic device guides you through the displays in English, explaining the images projected on its screen.

Singapore Living Gallery
Several permanent galleries focus on four themes dear to the hearts of Singaporeans: fashion, food, film, and photography. These galleries give visitors a more complete picture of Singapore’s culture.

Glass Rotunda
When you enter the Singapore history room, you are greeted by a gallery displaying hundreds of images in a 360-degree space.

Gallery Theatre
This multipurpose room can accommodate around 250 visitors for film showings or plays.

The NMS is not far from Orchard Road, that favorite home away from home for Indonesian shoppers. Walking from the shopping district to the NMS, even under the blazing sun, is a pleasure, since the air is clean and cool and the streets are lined with large shady trees.
So next time you’re in Singapore, end your shopping spree with a non-shopping experience at the NMS.

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