Formation and Transformation of a Museum: The National Museum of Singapore from colonial period to nation-building era

  • ชีวสิทธิ์ บุณยเกียรติ Rama IX Museum, National Science Museum
Keywords: The National Museum of Singapore, The Raffles Library and Museum, British colonies


This article discusses the transition of the National Museum of Singapore as a cultural institution from colonial period to nation-building era. Drawing on the author’s literature review and surveys of the Museum’s exhibitions, this article looks at 3 phases in the Museum’s history. Firstly, the formation and early development under the auspice of the Raffles Library and Museum (from mid 19th century): it illustrates how museum was founded under colonial agenda or the “white burden”. Library and museum collection were apt to endorse the colonial rule as the center of knowledge formation and public administration. Secondly, the turn of the “National Museum” after Independence (1959 - end of 1980’s): Singaporean government struggled to overcome the paradox of museum as a colonial legacy before eventually set up various museums in support of the country’s industrial development. Finally, the National Museum of Singapore (1990’s - present): the successful transformation of the National Museum of Singapore gives a strong emphasis on nation building and tourism, while at the same time portrays Singapore as a cosmopolitan center in the age of globalization.


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