Ever wanted to tell your children about how life was hard in the past and substantiate your reasoning (or nagging) with evidence? We took a walk down memory lane at Wee’s Collection, a private museum run by David Wee.
Wee’s Collection is located in Changi Road. It is a collection of memorabilia, tools, crockery, toys, signages, modes of transport that hark back as far as the 50s to 90s. From floor to ceiling, it is filled with memories in the form of items and trinkets.
And owner David has many rich stories to tell. When we visited, his commentary was peppered with chronicles of the hard life in the past, hoping to teach all of us to count our blessings in life today.
While millennials might be clueless about most of the things at the museum – the other generations would certainly recognise many items and brands that have since vanished.
Tours at Wee’s Collection, Led by David Wee
David is a very passionate collector who has been amassing treasures for 25 years. He set up the museum after being inspired by private museums run in Malacca, Penang and Thailand. He wanted to share his knowledge and memories with the younger generation so they can appreciate what they have.
Wee’s Collection runs tours by appointment only. We highly recommend gathering a group of five to book a session. The tour is highly educational.
“Old is gold” – The Beauty of Vintage
There are four sections to the museum – Barber shop, Kopitiam, Provision shop and Tailor’s shop.
Each themed section displays items and tools relevant to the context. As David leads the groups around the individual “mini galleries”, he engages the tour group by asking questions and getting visitors to guess the purpose of various tools.
At the kopitiam corner, there sat a pink coin phone where eager lovers used to sit there with their kopi siu dai waiting for their partners to call at a certain time.
Coffee was certainly not instant in the past either. Kopi boys had to wake in the early hours of the morning to boil water with charcoal to make the beverage. Coffee-making took three hours as compared to mere seconds today.
My 9-year-old, who would have been independently boiling water in those days, was certainly relieved he didn’t have such duties today.
We also saw the glass bottles of soft drinks like Fanta Orange, a treat only reserved for weddings and Chinese New Year.
My boys were left gaping when they heard how one glass bottle had to be shared amongst a family of 8.
The provision shop corner had plenty of powdered milk tins, biscuit tins, cans on display. I could recognise “KLIM” and “Dutch Baby” as brands I grew up with.
David also shared how getting groceries was quite a different affair in the past. Rather than swiping with credit cards, both store owner and customer kept a record of purchases in a books. The customer’s husband would then settle the accounts with a payment at the end of the month.
“Rebates” are in the form of crates of soft drinks or other groceries during festivals like Chinese New Year. It is an interesting transaction that goes beyond mere dollars and cents.
The themed corners around Wee’s Collection are perfect for play pretend – for adults.
Be a customer at the barber shop and get the ears dug, or make some coffee or pretend to be a seamstress sewing cheong sams.
Visitors will also be impressed by David’s collection of telephones, road signs, marketing posters, enamel trays and tiffin boxes.
In Touch with the Past
This family-friendly private museum allows children to interact with the items of display.
I appreciated how my sons could sit on the trishaws, peek through the mobile cinema and feel the different items from the past. They would have been told off in other places.
The sensory element is important for learning and embracing the memories the older generations had.
Wee’s collection offers a compelling peek into the past. With increasing digitalisation and modernisation, it is rare to find a place filled with stories and nostalgia.
Adults will enjoy all pointing out items and the memories associated with them. Pioneer Generation visitors will be able to reminisce about the “good old days”, when the pace of life slower yet harder, and relationships were sweeter.
On our visit, David shared about the “Gotong Royong” spirit in those days and talked about how strong relationships formed the basis of many transactions including borrowing a phone in exchange for kopi.
Visit Wee’s Collection for Insights into Singapore’s Past
Today’s privileged generation might have little inkling about the items at Wee’s collection. That is why it is even more crucial to share history and heritage with them.
Our forefathers and pioneers have worked very hard to bring progress to the country. Understanding more about their lives then help us to appreciate what we have come to enjoy.
To visit Wee’s Collection, make an appointment at or visit the Facebook page.
Wee’s Collection is located at 512 Changi Road. Tours are priced at an affordable $5 per person.