singapore history gallery
singapore history gallery

Singapore History Gallery

Ongoing
Level 1,
Singapore History Gallery
Daily from 10am – 7pm Last admission at 6.30pm
Free admission for Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and visitors aged 6 years and below
The Singapore History Gallery’s updated narrative charts the development of the island as it was known through the years as Singapura, a Crown Colony, Syonan-To, and finally, Singapore.
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Singapura (1299 – 1818)

Geologists have found that the oldest rock formations on Singapore date back to the Paleozoic Era. From prehistoric tools found in Western Singapore and Pulau Ubin, an island off Singapore, a settlement may have existed as early as several thousand years ago.

The earliest written records to have mentioned Singapore describe it as a thriving port in the 14th century. It was known by different names then: the Chinese traders called it Danmaxi (Temasik or Temasek), while in the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals), it was called Singapura.

Possibly ruled by an elite class who lived on what is now Fort Canning Hill, Singapore was connected by trade and politics to not only the Malay Archipelago, but also Siam (Thailand), China and India. Learn about the commonly traded items such as ceramics and hornbill casques, as well as Singapore’s inhabitants and their ways of life.

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Crown Colony (1819 – 1941)

In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles and Major William Farquhar arrived in Singapore. They struck a deal with the local Malay rulers to set up a British trading port, which Raffles declared would be “open to ships and vessels of every nation free of duty”. This brought in traders and ships from as far away as Arabia and Africa.

Singapore became a Crown colony in 1867. As the British empire flourished, so did Singapore. By 1919, Singapore was a modern city, boasting the second largest dry dock in the world with modern conveniences such as electricity, motorcars, and international telegraph and telephone connections.

Here, you will discover key historical figures and how they helped to catapult Singapore to become the centre of trade in Southeast Asia by the 1850s. You can also catch a glimpse of the migrants’ customs and way of life, complete with a replica of the opium dens they used to frequent.

Syonan-To (1942 – 1945)

Before World War Two began, the British had equipped Singapore with coastal guns and an air force. Singapore became known as the “Gibraltar of the East” or “Fortress Singapore”.

On 8 December 1941, Singapore experienced war for the first time when the Japanese bombed the city. After a swift 70-day campaign, the Japanese defeated the British and occupied the Malay Peninsula and Singapore. Singapore was placed under military occupation and renamed Syonan-To (“Light of the South” in Japanese). The Singapore population struggled with food and fuel shortages, disease and, at its worst, violence and harassment from the Japanese. The occupation ended only when Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945.

Explore a wide range of military artefacts including weapons, uniforms and a replica of a Japanese tank used during World War Two, and trace how key events of the war unfolded. Through personal belongings, photographs and documents, discover life under the Japanese Occupation and how various individuals and groups responded with resourcefulness and fortitude during this difficult period.

singapore history gallery

Singapore (1945 – present)

After World War Two, a wave of decolonisation began to sweep through Asia and Africa. In 1959, Singapore was granted self-government and the first general election for a fully-elected government was held. The People’s Action Party (PAP) won and its leader, Lee Kuan Yew, became Singapore’s first prime minister. Following a merger with, and then separation from, Malaysia, Singapore became a fully independent nation in 1965.

Over the next two decades, the government tackled the challenges faced by the growing nation, such as unemployment and insufficient housing. It took bold steps to introduce industrialisation, encourage foreign investment and tourism, provide modern public housing and education, and clean up the environment.

The artefacts here provide a glimpse into some of these key developments in the years after Singapore’s independence.

 

singapore history gallery

Family Time

Visit our permanent galleries with your little ones and play spot-the-artefact! Our colourful Early Learning Resources introduce pre-schoolers to our artefacts according to the themes of Numbers, Colours, and ABCs. Available at $8 per set from the Museum Label shop. For more children's activity booklets, click here.

Museum guide

Download our museum guide (English, Chinese, Bahasa Melayu, Tamil) to find out about the many treasures in our various galleries. In this guide, you will also find the floor plan for easier navigation. Enjoy your visit!

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Exhibition 10 JUN 2022 - 30 OCT 2022

OFF / ON: Everyday Technology that Changed our Lives, 1970s – 2000s

OFF / ON. Step into this immersive showcase and explore how everyday technological tools changed and shaped the lives of Singaporeans from the 1970s to 2000s.

Exhibition Gallery, Basement Level, 10am - 7pm - Please note that the gallery will be closed earlier on Fridays, Saturdays, and other selected days in preparation for the Escape Room Game, with last admission at 5.30pm. You can find the full list of affected dates for the June & July Escape Room Game slots below. The museum may bring forward the last admission timing earlier than as stipulated, in consideration of the crowd situation during peak periods especially Saturday afternoons.
Free admission for Singaporeans and PRs. For full admission details, please view the Visit page for details.
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Exhibition 20 APR 2022 - 31 JUL 2022

Rooting for Change: Artistic Responses to Climate Change and Sustainability

Immerse yourself in three multimedia artworks created as an artistic response to climate change and sustainability, inspired by the museum's collection to create fresh connections between environmental issues that concern our present and allow us to imagine what our future might look like.

LED Wall, opposite The Salon, Daily 10am – 7pm
Free Admission
Dislocations
Exhibition 29 JAN 2022 - 31 JUL 2022

Dislocations: Memory & Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942

Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942 is a commemorative exhibition to mark the 80th anniversary of the British Surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army in Singapore on 15 February 1942.

Exhibition Gallery, Basement , Daily 10am – 7pm Last admission is at 6.30pm
Free Admission for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents
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Programme 26 DEC 2021 - 31 DEC 2022

“Dear Senior,”: A Digital Inter-generational Pen Pal Corner

Discover some questions posed by children to their senior pen pals and find out what life was like for our seniors when they were young!

Digital