Featuring a selection from the National Museum of Singapore’s Collection

 

Wearing masks and maintaining a healthy distance between each other have become part of our “new normal”, but much of what we face and practise today has roots in our past.

A family at East Coast Park Singapore | 28 July 2020

Digital photograph by Brian Teo

This photograph was taken as part of a project commissioned by the National Museum of Singapore to document COVID-19 as experienced in Singapore. It was taken by Brian Teo, a young Singaporean photographer.

As the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to sweep across the world, many social, economic and political structures and systems have been – and continue to be – altered. The infectious disease has severely affected the health of millions of people, and is now actively shaping the ways in which businesses are run, policies are put in place, and lives are lived.

This isn’t, however, the first crisis that has plagued the collective human body. Practices such as isolating the sick, separating the healthy and emphasising personal hygiene have been adopted in responses to infectious diseases over the years and decades, including here in Singapore.

Drawing from the National Museum’s collections and using the concept of the “body” as a starting point, this online showcase explores a little-known side of Singapore’s history of public health. Starting from the late 19th century, it highlights the measures taken to stem the spread of contagious diseases on the island, the introduction of vaccines, the creation of hospitals and the roles played by key local personalities in such, as well as the public campaigns aimed at encouraging a clean and hygienic environment.

The National Museum is expanding our public engagement efforts to crowdsource objects and related stories/photos from residents in Singapore, to broaden our contemporary collection.

The 2020 theme for Collecting Contemporary Singapore will focus on COVID-19. If you could choose an object that represents your COVID-19 experience in Singapore or what home means to you during this time, what would this be and why?

Submit your contribution and find out more about the project here.

While this showcase is neither complete nor representative, the artefacts featured here point to both the rich medical heritage of Singapore and the National Museum’s own long tradition of collecting. This extends to the present, with the museum’s documentation and collection of objects and stories related to contemporary events of significance to Singapore.