For a small island, Singapore is home to a surprisingly large number of museums. Here's a quick guide to the most well known of them.
Asian Civilisations Museum
The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is unique in its function, collections and location – making it one of the most fascinating places to visit in Singapore. Understanding Singapore’s diverse ethnic mix is so much easier with a visit to the ACM that brings together, very uniquely, a collection from across Asia: China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia. From sculpture and pottery to exquisite calligraphy, the collection is spread over eleven galleries and three levels. The building itself is a fine example of colonial architecture: Empress Place Building was the site of government offices and one of the first civic buildings to be built in Singapore.
National Museum of Singapore
The oldest museum in Singapore, the National Museum was first a library when it was started in 1849. If you want to understand the history of Singapore, this is an ideal place from which to do it, telling a 700-year story of the city as it went from fishing village to metropolis. The Museum also houses several natural history drawings by William Farquhar, and the Singapore Stone, a 13th-century slab which stood at the mouth of the Singapore River and one of the country’s national treasures.
Singapore Philatelic Museum
Stamp buffs will enjoy the Singapore Philatelic Museum which traces the postal history of Singapore. Aside from exhibitions of Singaporean stamps and stamps from the member countries of the Universal Postal Union, the museum also hosts exhibitions on contemporary philately, private collections and themed exhibitions that include tributes to popular culture. In an age of digital communication, the Philatelic Museum stands as a reminder of the simple pleasures of a posted letter.
One of the most unique museums in the world, the Peranakan Museum is distinct in its collections and purpose, specialising in Peranakan culture. The Peranakan people, also known as Straits Chinese, were a group of 15th to 17th century immigrants to Indonesia and British Malaya, many of whom intermarried with local Indonesian and Malay people, creating a well-defined cultural, linguistic and culinary tradition. You’ll be able to view artefacts of Peranakan culture from clothing to homewares and understand the many traditions associated with the Peranakan people. Check out the Peranakan Wedding Bed, ornately carved and given to Mrs. Quah Hong Chiam of Penang as part of her wedding trousseau.
Singapore Art Museum
Step into the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) for one of the largest public collections of Southeast Asian art from modern and contemporary artists. The exhibitions span media and a range of aesthetic traditions and the museum is constantly acquiring new pieces by Southeast Asian and Asian artists. The site itself is historic; the SAM building used to be the Saint Joseph’s Institution, a 19th century mission school for boys run by the Catholic La Salle Brothers. Aside from art exhibitions, SAM regularly screens films and hosts talks and lectures which are open to the general public.
One of Singapore’s most visually-distinctive museums, the ArtScience Museum (ASM) at Marina Bay Sands fuses art, science, design, media, architecture, technology and digital culture to bring high-quality interdisciplinary exhibitions to Singapore. The ASM has hosted several blockbuster touring exhibitions including Van Gogh Alive, Harry Potter: The Exhibition and, more recently, Annie Leibovitz A Photographer's Life 1990 - 2005. This is one of the best places to explore the spaces where art and science meet, and a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in the Marina Bay area.