Photo credit: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE

What to expect at the Founders’ Memorial Exhibition in National Museum Singapore

The pilot exhibition, titled ‘Semangat yang Baru: Forging a New Singapore Spirit’, explores the stories about the dilemmas faced by founding leaders.

Chloe Tham

Published: 21 April 2023, 6:04 PM

The National Museum’s latest exhibition, titled Semengat yang Baru: Forging a New Singapore Spirit, will be open to visitors from Apr 21 to Oct 29.

Referred to as a ‘pilot exhibition’, it is to test values-based narratives and engagement strategies, preparing for the building of the Memorial’s interpretive gallery for the founding leaders of Singapore in 2027.

The exhibition is structured around five questions in the present tense, to reflect how Singaporean leaders and key figures had to deal with uncertainties around the 1950s to 1970s, and provide visitors with a more immersive experience.

Here’s what you can expect at the exhibition:

1. Prelude: The 1950s

The first part of the exhibition focuses on the elections that took place in the 1950s, such as the General Election in 1951 and the by-elections in 1957.

Reflective prism-shaped structures are placed around this section, to allow visitors to envision themselves in the videos by standing in front of the structures.

Cloud infrastructure and 5G connectivity is used in this multimedia exhibition for a personalised storytelling experience, as visitors can choose virtual guides known as “Character Companions”.

By scanning their wristband tags at the designated VR monitors at each section, they can read more about the trade-offs and policy decisions on individuals and communities.

 

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The Founders’ Memorial will focus on key leaders integral to the first two decades of Singapore’s nation-building years such as Lee Kuan Yew, S Rajaratnam, Goh Keng Swee, Othman Wok and E.W. Barker. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHLOE THAM

2. What do we stand for?

This section highlights key figures that helped to fight for justice and equality in Singapore. Featured on an AV monitor is an interview with Madam Hoe Puay Choo, a former legislative assemblywoman involved in the passing of the Women’s Charter in 1961.

Various artefacts are on display. These include a string of beads worn by Mrs Shirin Fozdar, a womens’ rights activist who once led the Singapore Council of Women and was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014, and a merlion-shaped brooch that belonged to Mrs Seow Peck Leng, one of the first women members of parliament in Singapore and the only woman of an opposition party at the time.

This area consists of a sub-section, named Interlude – We Pledge Ourselves, that covers the design of our National Symbols. An artefact that can be found is the national coat of arms made by the Baharuddin Vocational Institute.

 

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The lion symbol represents Singapore’s status as the Lion City and symbolises three national values: courage, excellence and strength. The tiger represents Singapore’s historical ties with Malaya. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHLOE THAM

3. How do we move forward?

Revisiting how the founding generation expressed Singapore’s identity as a nation, this section discusses Singapore’s efforts to develop its economy.

Former Cabinet minister Lim Kim San is acknowledged through a set of medals presented by the Housing Development Board (HDB) for his efforts toward leading a successful public housing programme in the 1960s.

Key artefacts displayed here are posters advertising sale of the two million Singapore Pools’ TOTO coupons – which were tied to the building of the National Stadium – and a National Theatre Donation coupon for the theatre’s construction. 

The text on the boards of the exhibition are written in the four languages widely used in Singapore – English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil – to accommodate all races.

 

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Two million coupons for Singapore Pools’ new TOTO game were printed for sale across Singapore in June 1968. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHLOE THAM

4. Difficult Moments

The Founders’ Memorial is not only meant to commemorate the past, but to inspire Singaporeans to commit themselves towards a better future, serving as a unifying point for all citizens of the country.

At this section, a wall installation allows visitors to pen their thoughts on difficult trade-offs that come to mind during Singapore’s early nation-building years from 1950 to 1970. It allows visitors to reflect on the sacrifices that had to be made when Singapore was developing into an industrial hub.

 

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Visitors may respond to questions posed at multimedia kiosks situated throughout the exhibition and discover which founding values they identify most with. PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTHOPIA/CHLOE THAM

5. Coda, Who could we be as a People?

The concluding section of the exhibition includes a projection of audio recordings, photos and live visuals showing the Singapore spirit in action. Visitors can record their thoughts and project it throughout this section of the exhibition.

 

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Visitors are invited to participate in exhibition-anchored engagements to provide feedback which will serve to further refine the Memorial’s narrative ahead of its launch. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHLOE THAM

 

This exhibition gives a glimpse into secondary school history lessons, except with tangible artefacts that were a part of Singapore’s history. 

The Founders’ Memorial  is located at Exhibition Gallery 1 at the National Museum of Singapore, and is open from 10am to 7pm daily during the exhibition’s run. Entry is free for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents.

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