Singapore's best small museums
If the thought of traipsing round dusty galleries for hours makes you swoon, head for these small Singapore museums -- history, culture and fun, without the foot ache.
This was the first Ford assembly plant in Southeast Asia. But its place in history was sealed by a less illustrious event -- the surrender of Malaya to the Japanese in World War II. Gazetted as a national monument in 2006, the old factory has been turned into a war museum. Artifacts, war records and primary documents make up the main gallery, at the heart of which is a massive talking map integrated with oral accounts of World War II events. The map is also a piece of art as it is embedded with shards of glass and floor tiles from the original factory, and displayed alongside a windshield from an old Ford Cortina MKII -- one of the car models produced at the factory. Outside there's a small garden of wartime crops (tapioca, sweet potato, yam, banana, coconut) and an oversized, war-themed snakes and ladders game for children.351 Upper Bukit Timah Road. Tel: +65 6332 7973. Mon-Sat, 9.00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sun noon-5:30 p.m.
After you explore these five floors jammed with toys dating all the way back to the mid-19th century, you’ll start taking your toys seriously. Chang Yang Fa, founder of Mint, certainly does, and has since the age of six when he started collecting. Fifty years and over 50,000 toys later, he established Mint. You will find vintage toys, signage and tin boxes from over 40 countries -- including Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States -- dating back to World War I. Collections of Star Wars, Astroboy, Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Batman, Superman and Mickey Mouse line the walls and glass cases of this museum, alongside beautifully crafted antique dolls, cars and teddy bears.26 Seah Street. Tel: +65 6339 0660. Daily 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Since its opening in 2008, this extension of the Singapore Art Museum has been making a name for itself through its continual roll out of experimental, multi-disciplinary exhibitions in the form of painting, sculpture, installation, photography, performance, and mixed-media forms. The opening show, titled 8Q-Rate: School, featured the works by young contemporary artists such as Donna Ong, Jahan Loh, Tan Kai Syng and sculptor Ahmad Abu Bakar.8 Queen Street. Tel: +65 6332 3200. Mon-Thu, Sat & Sun 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Fri 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
If your email-obsessed child ever asks you what a stamp is, get them down to this museum. The humble postage stamp is the star, along with historical Singapore-centric philatelic material and stamps of the Universal Postal Union countries. You can view the world through these stamp collections, exploring science, history, technology and culture. Exhibits are lively, colorful and engaging -- no static stamp albums here.23-B Coleman Street. Tel: +65 6337 3888. Tue-Sun 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon 1-7 p.m.
Marina Bay City Gallery
This is one of Singapore’s most ambitious urban development undertakings, a massive project offering some local history nuggets. The gallery houses a full-scale model of the Marina Bay area, video and animation pieces and exhibits that showcase the Bay’s history since 1800 and its approach towards sustainable urban development now. There are walking guides on display, but as a large proportion of the area is still being built, these walks are more like site visits -- and an interesting way to experience an urban center in the making.11 Marina Boulevard. Tel: +65 6329 3535. Tue-Fri 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Few hotels in Singapore are historically significant enough to merit their own museum, but Raffles Hotel erected by the Sarkies Brothers in 1887, is one. Aside from fleshing out its rich history and progress from a 10-room property, the museum focuses on the Golden Age of Travel, 1880-1939, the years when the hotel gained prominence and sealed its image of colonial grandeur. Most of its exhibits date from that era -- old postcards and letters, some of them donated by former guests, fine bone china and silverware, and rare late 19th century photographs depicting Singapore and the region.
1 Beach Road. Tel: +65 6337 1886. Daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m.