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Updated by Joanna James on May 02, 2024
Headline for 7 Interesting Things To Know About National Museum of Singapore - Seven Fascinating Facts Regarding the National Museum
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7 Interesting Things To Know About National Museum of Singapore - Seven Fascinating Facts Regarding the National Museum

As the country's foremost cultural institution, the National Museum of Singapore is no ordinary tourist attraction in Lion City. Housed within an iconic structure, there is more to the museum than meets the eye. Here are some facts of interest on Singapore's most popular museum.


Library or Museum?

Although modern visitors would consider the National Museum of Singapore an illustrious museum and not a library, those who frequented the venue during its first years of operation would beg to differ. This is due to the fact that the Singapore National Museum started off as the Singapore Library and Museum before it assumed its role as a museum proper. One of the first artefacts that were donated to the then-thriving library were ancient gold coins from Johor's Temenggong Ibrahim.


What's in a Name?

For a museum of its scale, the Singapore National Museum has gone through many different phases not only in terms of its purpose and role but also in how it was identified. First known as the Singapore Library and Museum, it was later dubbed the Raffles Library and Museum under colonial rule. After the Japanese invasion of the country, the museum was rebranded as the Syonan Museum or Syonan Hakubutsu Kan. Other names that followed include the National Museum, which changed to the Singapore History Museum until it assumed its current name after the renovations of 2006.



One of the first sights that visitors based at Grand Park City Hall or any other nearby city hall hotel in Singapore will come across at the National Museum are the triangle-shaped pediments with unicorn motifs decorating the venue's exterior. Although unicorns are hardly creatures found in Asian mythology, their presence on the facade is due to the creatures being featured on the coat of arms of Queen Victoria.


Safe Haven during Conflicts

While most regional museums were looted and partly destroyed during World War II, the National Museum of Singapore escaped fairly unscathed due to the presence of Professor Hidezo Tanakadate, who was an envoy of Hirohito, who posted "Do Not Enter" placards around the building to dissuade Japanese troops from entering the museum.


The Nation's History Vs Natural History

Once again, the multi-faceted role performed by the National Museum of Singapore has called into question whether the institution was indeed a curator of history or a place of scientific research based on natural history. For the initial years of its operation, the museum served as a natural history hub showcasing the famed bones of a whale, for example.


The Gallery Theatre's Brick Wall

The brick wall that's found at the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum is a tribute to the National Library, which once occupied Stamford Road that was demolished.


Singapore's Oldest Fountain

The oldest drinking fountain on the island is also found at the National Museum of Singapore and occupies pride of place in the courtyard. Named the Gemmil Fountain, the public drinking spout was once located at Commercial Square.

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