National Museum of Singapore’s latest exhibition Now Boarding: Experience Singapore Through Travel 1800s to 2000s showcases how Singapore was seen by the world through the travellers’ eyes.
How did Singapore’s identity evolve? Did you know we were once known as “the exotic East”?
Highlights of Now Boarding: Experience Singapore Through Travel 1800s to 2000s
Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore through Travel, 1800s – 2000s guides visitors through the experience of visiting Singapore over the years with artefacts such as postcards, posters, photographs, travel paraphernalia and everyday objects.
The exhibition is set against the backdrop of Singapore’s colonial past and post-independence decades.
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Here are key highlights not to be missed at this travel-themed exhibition.
1. Changi Airport’s Iconic Flipboard
As you enter National Museum of Singapore’s front entrance, you would be greeted by the familiar flipboard that used to be used at Changi Airport Terminal 2.
The iconic flight information display flip board stands right below the Rotunda and it is likely the first artefact that greets visitors. First, strike a pose and then heed the instructions on the board as you “check-in” to retrieve your “boarding pass” to enter the exhibition.
The flipboard is one of the 600 artefacts that are on display at the exhibition. Visitors will take a trip back in time to see Singapore through the eyes of travel writers, journalists, tourists and even friends of immigrants.
2. Entering the “Travel Guidebook”
Before you enter, don’t forget to turn the spinning cubes at the entrance unveiling the various icons of Singapore. It’s your chance to be “Vanna White”.
The exhibition has four sections presented as chapters of a travel guidebook:
- Getting Around,
- Places to Stay,
- Sights & Shopping, and
- Eating Out.
The first section showcases travel books on Singapore all the way from the 19th century to recent years. The covers of the guidebooks offer a glimpse into how people, icons and landmarks helped shape the image of Singapore throughout history.
3. A Humble Trishaw and Photos of Olden Day Singapore
Singapore’s reputation as a global hub highlights its links to major shipping and aviation routes throughout history. The various means of domestic transport are shown through travel posters, brochures, postcards and personal artefacts.
Look out for several artefacts in this section – one is a donated trishaw by an American who painstakingly restored it.
A series of black and white photographs are also on display showcasing what visitors would have seen when they disembarked from the ship in the 19th century before the advent of air travel.
Scenes of congestion and chaos would have greeted foreign visitors. The sounds of rickshaws and motor vehicles can be heard with sound clips being projected from the overhead domes.
The pictures showing these scenes were captured by National Geographic’s photojournalist Maynard Owen Williams. He was the first National Geographic foreign correspondent and pioneered the field of travel photography.
4. Hotels in Singapore: Past & Present
There are various accommodation offerings that have been prominent both past and present.
Raffles Hotel, for instance, is the “grand dame” that is featured in the section. Its iconic doorman uniform still in use today, represents interesting stories, reflecting the microcosm of society both its desires and divisions.
The uniform was designed in a military style and the Sikhs were a part of the British military, hence helming the role of the guardian of the hotel.
In a story, a shoestring traveller from the UK was trying to locate a poet at the hotel but was turned away by the “imposing figure in a turban and sash”.
5. Hawker Life & Menus of the Past
Singapore’s love for food cannot be overstated.
The Eating Out section captures the wide range of food options, culturally diverse yet cosmopolitan nature and the evolution of hawker culture.
Visitors will see a range of kitchen utensils and tools used by hawkers over the years.
One can also reminisce through the familiar menus displayed and even browse through the pages using an electronic touch screen.
Iconic restaurants like A&W was one of the first fast food chain to open in Singapore! Other F&B brands represented include Billy Bombers and Shashlik.
6. Remember John Little, the Neptune & Zouk?
The fourth section will showcase attractions, entertainment and shopping offerings. This would definitely bring back memories for many of us.
Remember how the Singapore Zoo used to look? Did you used to hang out at Zouk? Or have you shopped at John Little?
See marketing posters, postcards that would blast you to the past as they highlight Singapore’s visual icons of sights and entertainment experiences.
The neon-lit signs of the Neptune and Zouk would definitely get friends and family recounting their memories at the clubs.
7. Disco Pop-Up Room
Last but not least, this disco pop-up room is a must-try! Designed like a retro disco room, this Disco Room will teach you three dance tutorials.
Simply scan in your heritage ID to have the video of yourself dancing sent to your email address.
Two other pop-up rooms will be open in August!
Experience Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore through Travel, 1800s – 2000s at National Museum of Singapore
Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore through Travel, 1800s – 2000s opens 27 May and will run till November 2023.
Families with young children, don’t forget to pick up the exhibition’s fun travel explorer’s guide.