Located beside the University Cultural Centre at Kent Ridge, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at National University of Singapore is the country’s only museum dedicated to showcasing Southeast Asian biodiversity and first opened its doors to the public in April 2015.
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is home to over 560,000 catalogued lots, and over a million specimens from throughout the region; from the microscopic to the enormous, and from the queer to the awesome.
With 20 zones spread over two floors, the Museum is definitely worth repeat visits with your little ones because there’s that much to take in!
The Biodiversity Gallery of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is located on the ground floor is the very first gallery you’ll experience upon entry.
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The Biodiversity Gallery consists of 15 zones, tracing the history of life on earth, with different sections devoted to the origin of life and all major branches of the Tree of Life.
The rest are thematic zones dedicated to scientific knowledge, exploring topics such as how terrestrial vertebrates evolved from life in the water, and why birds are actually “dinosaurs”.
I love that the zones are clearly segregated, and yet seamlessly integrated into one massive exhibition gallery. Also, there are numerous totem poles which provide visitors with a summary of the section you’re at.
There are specific exhibits in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum which allow visitors to touch and feel – there’s a little hand icon stuck to the side of these exhibits.
I was at the Museum with three young children under the age of 4 and you can imagine how awesome it was to be able to direct their attention to exhibits they could experience for themselves!
Mummies and Daddies know how absolutely challenging it is for toddlers to keep their hands to themselves, especially in the face of curious objects; having such “touch and feel” exhibits are perfect for little hands and minds to explore and learn.
In fact, many of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s exhibits have been designed to engage the visitors if not through touch, then through sight or sound.
Strategically placed multimedia booths within the Biodiversity Gallery include videos of rare and interesting animals, and commentaries by the researchers on their work at the Museum. My little ones enjoyed picking up the earpieces, and listening to the “stories”.
There are also booths where visitors can hear the different sounds made by animals and insects, and also read about them on mini placards.
D.S. Lee Foundation Dinosaur Zone
The centrepiece of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s Biodiversity Gallery is literally the D.S. Lee Foundation Dinosaur Zone.
Fun fact: the three diplodocid sauropod skeletons – nicknamed Prince, Apollonia and Twinky – were found between 2007 and 2010 at a quarry in Wyoming in the United States of America, and are believed to be part of the same herd or even family.
Each of them is about 80% complete, making them the three most intact fossils ever found in the world. In addition, two of these skeletons come with skulls – a rarity as far as sauropod dinosaurs fossils are concerned.
Throughout the day at half-hour intervals, visitors are treated to a simple light show at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum Dinosaur Zone.
The Dinosaur Zone light show consists of changing lights and sound effects which makes the dinosaur fossil-viewing experience a little more immersive. My four-year-old godson was surprised and then somewhat terrified by the roaring and squawking, so parents might want to hold on tight to your littler ones.
The Heritage Gallery is located at the mezzanine floor and includes five exhibit zones, which pays homage to the Museum’s heritage by presenting an account of the museum’s development and tracing the relationship between Singapore’s development and its natural history.
The Heritage Gallery’s layout is intentionally styled like an old-school museum with specimens on display in dark wooden cabinets, also known as the Cabinets of Curiosity.
My party of under-4s didn’t quite appreciate the Cabinets of Curiosity as much as they did the displays in the Biodiversity Gallery. Grown-ups and older children though will enjoy exploring the different drawers and opening doors to see what lies within.
There are glass displays of artefacts and drawers full of information cards on the various exhibits.
The Landscape Walk, featuring a wall of windows into the Museum’s Mangroves, Swamps & Forests, runs the length of the Heritage Gallery. Visitors will be able to see a strip of vegetation which comprises mangroves and freshwater plants, and read about their importance or significance.
Visiting Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Even though all of the information displayed within the Museum are in English, there currently are Volunteer-led Guided Tours in Mandarin every Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.
These Volunteer-led Guided Tours run for one hour, and are subject to the volunteer guides’ availability. The tours are restricted to a maximum of 12 persons per group, and visitors should enquire at the reception counter or call the Museum at 66013333 prior to a visit.
For those who drive, there is an open-air carpark (Carpark 3A) located just behind the Museum.
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore is opened Tuesdays to Sundays and Public Holidays from 10 am to 7 pm, with the last admission at 5.30 pm.
For more on ticket prices and such, go here.