Let’s Do Museums

Asian Civilisation Museum where Asian cultures come alive
Standing side by side with the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles overlooking the mouth of Singapore River, the Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM) at Empress Place is a site of historical significance. The building itself dates back to 1860s. Built in neo-Palladian style with regal Doric columns in the interior, it used to be Singapore’s Citizen’s Registry, Immigration Department, and Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

A convenient 4-minute walk from the nearest MRT (Raffles Place), ACM may be dwarfed by the concrete skyline of Singapore’s financial district.

Its location on the north bank of the river also means that it enjoys a panorama of the bustling Boat Quay and the city’s vibe, while quietly reflecting on the past of Singapore River. The landmark Fullerton hotel on the opposite side of the river extends the theme of neoclassicism with much grandeur. There is something serene and romantic about this special location.

The museum presents the evolution of civilisation in Southeast Asia, West and South Asia, as well as China in its 11 galleries. The story of Singapore River is revealed in the Singapore River gallery which is freely accessible to the public. Adjacent to this gallery is the Shaw Foundation foyer, a space perfect for pre-event cocktails. Guests will be able to explore the history of Singapore River and take a glimpse of the river while socialising.

The main facilities that are available for hire are the River Room and River Terrace on level 2. A medium-sized ballroom, the River Room is bordered by old-style glass-panelled doors. Its walls painted in crimson alternate with wood panelling. Together with its high ceiling, the River Room conjures a stately yet welcoming interior.

Stepping out from River Room leads to the River Terrace and the imposing view of Boat Quay skyscrapers skirted by traditional shop houses along the river. This wide and versatile space is a blank canvas for creative event planners to paint their ideal function.

How about having your guests arrive by bumboat on the Singapore river, and serves your welcome reception at the museum lobby area or the front porch courtyard? Both areas can be rented – the former after museum’s opening hours and the latter at anytime of the day. “This gives the exciting feeling of having the museum all by yourself,” said Kevin Tan, Business Development Manager of ACM. Private viewing of galleries can also be arranged. Also for hire is the Ngee Ann auditorium, a popular venue with banks and pharmaceutical companies for talks or lectures.

A firm favourite venue with the corporate clients and embassies, ACM hosts approximately 280 events annually. Look out for a new outdoor facility which is expected to be available in mid 2008.

Singapore Art Museum a mainstay for Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art

With an aim to preserve art histories and promote appreciation of contemporary art in the local and regional context, Singapore Art Museum (SAM) opened its door in 1996 after almost ten years of development. SAM is housed in a restored 19th-century baroque-style classical building which was formerly the St Joseph’s Institution – the first Catholic boys’ school in Singapore. The historic building was designed by French priest and architect Father Charles Benedict Nain, who also designed the beautiful chapel in Chijmes further down Bras Basah Road.

One of the distinctive characters of the building lies in the colourful floor tiles, and SAM has since served as a popular photo shooting spot, especially for wedding couples. The current tiles are a reproduction, but a small section of the original hand painted tiles is still preserved within the museum. “With the floor tiles and the school setting, the ambience here is cosy,” said Stephanie Yeow, Museum Services Officer of SAM.

The ground floor of the museum caters for medium-term themed exhibits from artists around Southeast Asia. Beyond the lobby area is the Glass Hall standing in between two openair palm trees-lined courtyards. The see-through Glass Hall is made of frameless glass, allowing the alfresco mood of the courtyards and the fountains to be taken inside. This is an enchanting setting for wedding dinners, cocktails and other more intimate events.

On the second level is the museum’s auditorium, transformed from the former school chapel. While the walls were preserved in the original salmon colour, the stainless glass installation of the gothic window is a contemporary creation by Filipino artist Ramon Orlina. The auditorium is suitable for small musical performances, seminar and wedding march or solemnisation. Due to its proximity to the galleries, consumption of food and drink is prohibited in the auditorium for conservation reasons.

The galleries on the second floor display mostly permanent collection of SAM from paintings to artworks and ceramics. Currently, SAM has the world’s largest public collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art. Guided tour of some of SAM’s 17 galleries can be arranged before your event upon request.

National Museum of Singapore the oldest museum in the city with the youngest and most innovative soul

Celebrating 120 years of history, the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) is no doubt a national icon and the people’s museum. First opened in 1887 as the former Raffles Library and Museum, today, the NMS has grown twice the size of the original museum after a three year redevelopment amounting to S$132.6 million. Huge and high-tech are apt descriptions of the reborn NMS.

An elegant neo-Palladian styled building, the architectural feature of NMS is the beautifully restored Rotunda Dome and its stained glass. Showcased in NMS are the Singapore History Gallery, Singapore Living Gallery (divided into food, fashion, film, and photography) and eleven treasures. The museum prides itself on redefining museum experience by using cutting-edge and creative approaches in presenting the exhibits.

The recreation of this grand dame also incorporated multi-purpose events and exhibition spaces for hire. The Salon, located on the ground floor in the old museum building, is a mediumsized room with parquet flooring and arch windows. It is popular for corporate functions. The foyer outside the room can be rented for reception. Just outside the Salon in the new extension is a long stretch of space with direct view of the towering glass roof. This space is called the Concourse, great for standing receptions. It hosted the reception for IMF delegates during the IMP-World Bank meeting in 2006.

An escalator up from the Concourse takes you to the Glass Atrium. The Glass Atrium connects to the Singapore History Gallery and the Fort Canning entrance of the museum. Car can be driven directly into the atrium from Fort Canning Road and it is no wonder that it is an ideal venue for car launch.

At the basement of NMS is Gallery Theatre, a new hybrid theatre/cinema/exhibition catering for three different uses. Retractable seats, movable staging and variable acoustic systems are the key components of its versatility. The foyer at the basement – known as the Canyon – is another long rectangular space suitable for exhibition, reception and even dinner. Outdoor options are equally attractive at the NMS. The Terrace, an outdoor space beside Muse Bar and accessible from the Salon, is surrounded on three sides by the majestic historic building. Event planners can work with the Muse Bar to provide pre-event cocktails or a unique dining experience. If you like the NMS as your backdrop, you can choose to hold your function under the hundred-year-old Bayan tree at the corner of NMS.

Outdoor concerts have been held there. You are only limited by your imagination on how you can transform these historical and cultural places into a memorable event.