Preparations for the inaugural exhibition of the Asian Civilisations Museum began in 1994. Storylines and themes were discussed, designers and construction companies appointed, artefacts selected and labels written.
Appropriately, for a building that was once converted from a Chinese school, the permanent exhibition of the Museum began with a focus on different aspects of Chinese culture and civilisation, ranging from architecture to the connoisseurship of the literati. Later, the permanent exhibition at ACM, Armenian Street focused on showcasing the rich material and cultural heritage of the Peranakans. The ACM closed at the end of 2005 to be redeveloped as a new museum to showcase the eclectic Peranakan culture.
Today, the old Tao Nan School has entered the latest and most colourful phase in its history – as the Peranakan Museum.
Over the 70-year occupation of the place, several changes were made to the building. Space was differently employed and some structures were added while others demolished. The biggest transformation is the conversion from a school to a museum.