New World War Two exhibition opens at National Museum of Singapore on Jan 29

The exhibition features interactive elements like games and augmented reality.

Nicki Chan

Probably that one person singing in the shower at 2am.

Published: 26 January 2022, 5:38 PM

History books can only tell you so much, but here is an opportunity to understand the past better.  

An exhibition showcasing the struggles of war in Singapore during World War II, Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942, will open on Jan 29 at the National Museum of Singapore. The exhibition commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore

Dislocations is the first exhibition to examine the impact of the war and war memory on younger generations of Singaporeans who did not experience it. 

It incorporates interactive elements such as AR technology and gamification, to provide a more immersive experience for visitors to learn about the reality of war. 


The exhibition brings together many different artefacts and personal accounts to add to our collective understanding of the war. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICKI CHAN


The exhibition showcases an extended timeline of the war with firsthand accounts and personal artefacts used during that period, providing a deeper understanding of people’s experiences in wartime Singapore.

It is divided into six chronological segments. They cover events in Singapore in the 1940s, from the evacuations and defence preparations leading up to the war to the fall of Singapore and its aftermath


Paintings by various artists hanging from the ceiling, to give visitors additional perspectives on the war. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICKI CHAN


Much of the exhibition is made up of personal artefacts. These include battle items used in the war, personal items owned by soldiers and civilians, and items that were used to preserve war memory such as newspapers, document records and memoirs.


One of the artefacts on display is Geoffrey Tan’s typewriter, which he used to record his experiences of living through the war. Tan was 15 at the time. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICKI CHAN


Perhaps the most sombre section of the exhibition is The Aftermath, which focuses on the Operation Sook Ching massacre in which many were executed for perceived anti-Japanese activity. 

The exhibit features a glass display holding numerous personal items recovered from excavations of the places where the executed victims were buried. The space was designed to be meditative and evocative, said Iskander Bin Mydin, curatorial fellow at the Museum. 


During the excavations, the items were labelled with paper tags to identify the time and place they were found. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICKI CHAN


The exhibit then leads visitors to a similar room, containing advertisements received by local newspapers. They are desperate messages from civilians who wished to search for lost family members, or to inform them that they were safe. 


Audio messages carrying the same tone play occasionally in the space. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICKI CHAN


As World War Two occurred a long time ago and is far removed from the younger generations, the Museum has incorporated gaming elements in Dislocations to encourage people to visit and allow people to feel a more personal connection with the contents of the exhibition. 

The second section of the exhibition features a tactical game that allows visitors to take the position of one that has to defend Singapore and make strategic decisions regarding that. 


The game helps players to understand the decisions made to defend Singapore back then. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/NICKI CHAN


With Dislocations, the Museum hopes to spark conversations about the war and its memory that will bring older and younger generations closer together with a greater shared understanding of Singapore’s history. 

“The exhibition is a step; it cannot be everything. The first step is always very important,” said Mr Iskander. 

The Museum has also released a pre-exhibition game, Sunset in Singapore, that allows players to glimpse the war from the perspective of various characters, such as a soldier or nurse. The game can be played before visiting the exhibition. 


The pre-exhibition game allows players to digest what happened during the war in their free time so they can appreciate the physical exhibition better. IMAGE CREDIT: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD


Dislocations: Memory and Meaning of the Fall of Singapore, 1942 is located at Basement 1 of the National Museum of Singapore until May 29, and admission is free. 

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