Take A Trip To National Museum Of Singapore For Its New Travel-Themed Exhibition

Take A Trip To National Museum Of Singapore For Its New Travel-Themed Exhibition

Things To Do
By Sherryl Cheong on 24 May 2023

There is no question that the National Museum of Singapore's latest exhibition, 'Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore through Travel, 1800s–2000s', is about travel. But if you look beyond the surface, it is actually centred around our city's ever-changing identity. Travel is simply, as museum director Chung May Khuen describes it, "a focal point" that allows visitors — both locals and tourists alike — to better connect with the exhibition.


Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore through Travel, 1800s–2000sPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Singapore was often viewed as a part of the "Exotic East" and consequently, depicted through the romantic gaze of Westerners. After gaining independence, there was a concerted effort by the state to actively shape how the world viewed us through carefully crafted campaigns and tourism. And this exhibition seeks to explore the way Singapore has presented itself – and has been presented – to the world over the years.

Changi Airport Terminal 2's Flight Information Flip BoardPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Thanks to the awe-inspiring 5.3m-tall analogue flip board that sits at the centre of the Rotunda, your viewing experience begins the moment you enter the museum. Fun fact: this is the first time it is on display since its removal from Changi Airport's second terminal in 2020. 

Since artefacts are often static, the activated flip board is indicative of the curators' efforts to showcase a functioning object. It sure was nostalgic to witness the single-character modules change and hear the accompanying clacking sounds!

My Boarding PassPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

The flip board also instructs visitors to “check in” and collect their “boarding passes”. Be sure to keep your boarding pass by your side because apart from granting you entry into the exhibition, you also need to scan it to activate several interactive stations.


At The Entrance Of The ExhibitionPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

The exhibition features close to 600 artefacts, comprising postcards, posters, photographs, travel paraphernalia, and everyday objects. As the curators were inspired by travel guidebooks, the artefacts are organised according to four key sections that are named after typical book chapters: 'Getting Around', 'Places to Stay', 'Eating Out', and 'Sights and Shopping'.

Getting Around

This first section explores Singapore’s reputation as a global hub and you'll find colourful travel posters, travel brochures, and personal artefacts that offer an intimate glimpse into the travels of those who made their way to our shores by land, sea, or air transport.

Singapore Airlines A380 Cabin Seat & TrishawPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

The highlights are definitely the iconic first-generation Suites cabin seat from Singapore Airlines' A380 aircraft and a trishaw that was lovingly restored by an expatriate who was a frequent passenger in the 1980s.

A Series of TransitLink CardsPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Not to forget this impressive display, which features 100 TransitLink fare cards (the predecessor of EZ-Link cards) as well as a light projection of our ever-expanding MRT system.


Places to Stay

The second station puts the spotlight on hotels — and their staff — that shaped travellers’ impressions of Singapore, from the Raffles Hotel to the Marina Bay Sands.

Section 2: Places to StayPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Peep the former's iconic doorman uniform, which is still in use today. The curators worked with the Sikh community to source for and tie the turban because historically, the doormen were often Sikhs. The more you know!

Eating Out

The next section is dedicated to our favourite national pastime: eating. It aims to capture the wide range of food options in our culinary landscape, which reflects our culturally diverse yet cosmopolitan nature. 

Section 3: Eating OutPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Simply tap the interactive touch screen to browse the menus of iconic restaurants like Allen & Wright Family Restaurant (A&W), the very first fast food chain to arrive in Singapore. 


Postcards of Food StallsPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Of course, a section about Singapore’s food and beverage landscape would be remiss if it didn't cover our hawker culture and its rich history. Through photographs and postcards of hawkers peddling their wares on the streets, you'll learn more about a time before the state introduced regulations to address hygiene and congestion issues.

Trays, Cups & Bottles Found At CoffeeshopsPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Discover the kitchenware used by hawkers past and present, as well as an array of vintage kopitiam cups, drinking glasses, soft drink bottles, and advertisement trays. While they were a common sight in coffee shops from the 1950s to the 2000s, they've since been replaced with disposable plastic, which arguably has less character — I mean, just look at these visually captivating designs!

Sights and Shopping

The final section delves into the various attractions, entertainment, and retail offerings that make our city a fun and vibrant destination. It explores how some sights have endured, while others have lost ground in land-scarce Singapore.

Signages of Neptune Theatre Restaurant & ZoukPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

One example would be Neptune, which used to be our largest theatre restaurant, one that was famous for hosting topless revues and large-scale dinners. Check out its signage, which sits right above that of Zouk, the pioneer clubbing institution in Singapore.

NMS Discotheque Pop-up RoomPhoto from HolidaySmart Singapore

Speaking of partying, there is also a disco pop-up room right outside the gallery, complete with 1980s-style décor and retro-future furnishing. Pick your level of difficulty and dance along to groovy beats. Plus, you get to download your dance videos as a keepsake!

Time To Dance!Photo from HolidaySmart Singapore

So if you're down to take a trip down memory lane, be sure to head over to the museum for an eye-opening experience that will enrich your understanding of Singapore. Plus, you get to dive deeper into the aspects of our identity that we hold close to our hearts, from multiculturalism to our relentless pursuit of progress.

Now Boarding: Experiencing Singapore Through Travel 
Location: 93 Stamford Road, National Museum of Singapore Exhibition Gallery, Singapore 178897
Dates: 27 May to 19 Nov
Time: 10am – 7pm
Cost: Free of charge for Singaporeans & Permanent Residents