What is the connection between Whampoa and the Singapore Botanic Gardens?
This answer to this question and others from the Singapore Botanic Garden’s 154 year history are unveiled at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum and its companion building, the City Development Limited (CDL) Green Gallery.
While many families enjoy the open spaces of the Gardens, not many are aware of the historical significance of the Gardens. In a Singapore which is constantly reinventing itself, it is amazing to discover that many of the paths criss-crossing the Gardens have remained unchanged since the 1860s, trodden on by generations, and that Swan Lake, where many children enjoy feeding the terrapins, was first excavated in 1866. These are some of the little-known facts that can be uncovered at the SBG Heritage Museum.
Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum
Opened on 30 Nov 2013, the two-storey SBG Heritage Museum pays tribute to the Singapore Botanic Gardens role in Singapore’s history. The museum is housed in Holttum Hall, itself a URA conservation building, located beside the Botany Centre at the Tanglin Core. The building was previously the office and laboratory of Professor Eric Holttum, the Garden’s Director from 1925 to 1949.
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The Museum’s first floor lays out the history of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Tracing its roots back to Hoo Ah Kay “Whampoa” who facilitated the acquisition of land for the Agri-Horticultural Society to establish a garden on the site in 1859, it follows the development of Gardens from colonial times to the post-war years and eventually to the Singapore Botanic Gardens we know and love today. Two large flower pots from Hoo Ah Kay’s private residence, donated by his great grand daughter, stand in tribute to the role this Singapore pioneer played in the founding of the Gardens.
Information panels around the first floor room recount the contributions of various heads of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, including Henry Ridley, the Garden’s Director in 1888 who is credited with introducing the rubber crop to Malaya and Eric Holttum, who lends his name to the building.
In the middle of the first floor room is a large interactive “table-top” map of the Botanic Gardens. Spinning a dial on the table-top, it is possible to trace the development and growth of the Singapore Botanic Gardens from the 1800s to present day.
Contributions of the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Under the colonial government in the 1800s, the Singapore Botanic Gardens was viewed as a satellite of London’s Kew Gardens. In fact, many of the Garden’s directors where Kew-trained men.
As part of the colonial machinery, the Gardens was expected to conduct research into crops that could enrich the Empire – hence, there was focus on cash crops such as rubber, coffee and cocoa.
The second floor of the SBG Heritage Gallery showcases the economic role played by the SBG. It also provides insights into different botany-related methods and techniques such as Henry Ridley’s herring-bone method for tapping rubber.
Interactive touch-screen panels can be found throughout the Museum. On the second floor, a touch panel invites visitors to play a game guessing the parents of plant hybrids and visitors can browse virtual books from the Garden’s Library of Botany and Horticulture in a screen that has been integrated into a writing desk.
Keep an eye out for QR codes scattered throughout the SBG Heritage Museum. Scanning these with a free, downloadable Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum mobile phone application (iPhone and Android versions available) provides more information about the Gardens.
CDL Green Gallery
If the SBG Heritage Museum represents Singapore’s past greening efforts, the CDL Green Gallery represents its future.
This newly constructed eco-building opposite the SBG Heritage Museum is Singapore’s first zero energy Green Gallery. Equipped with solar photovoltaic (PV) roof panels, it is expected to harvest sufficient energy on its own for the building’s operations and has been constructed from a pre-fabricated eco-friendly material, Hempcrete. Its East and West façades are also clad with butterfly-attracting plants to encourage biodiversity.
Inside, the Gallery recounts Singapore’s greening efforts and has interactive elements that allow visitors to learn about Singapore’s biodiversity, parks and green spaces.
Until 30 June 2014, the CDL Green Gallery will provide a glimpse into the National Parks Board’s plans for the future in the “Living in a Garden” exhibition. Especially exciting for families are plans for the development of three Destination Parks – Admiralty Park, Jurong Lake Park and East Coast Park. These parks are expected to be completed by end 2014, end 206 and end 2017 respectively.
As part of the exhibition, visitors can even take on the role of city planner and design their own desired green city of the future in an interactive app at the rear of the gallery.
The exhibits at the CDL Green Gallery will change every six to nine months.
Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum
Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm
Holttum Hall. Located next the Botany Centre at Tanglin Core. Nearest car park is found at the Botany Centre (where Food For Thought is located).
City Development Limited (CDL) Green Gallery
Till 15 December 2013:
9 am to 6 pm (Mon to Fri)
9 am to 8 pm (Sat, Sun & Public Holiday)
16 December 2013 onwards:
9 am to 6 pm (Mon to Sun)
Holttum Lawn, beside the Botany Centre.
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