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Story of Our Museums

Asian Civilisations Museum

ACM Facade (2011)

The Asian Civilisations Museum is devoted to preserving the cultural heritage of Asia, especially the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans. These include China, Southeast Asia, India, and the Islamic world. More recently, the museum has focused on the long historical connections between these cultures. The museum therefore explores art that blends different ideas, as a means of achieving understanding that encompasses different religions, languages, and creative forms. As one of the national museums of Singapore under the National Heritage Board, the museum also seeks to promote a better appreciation of the rich history that has created Singapore's multi-ethnic society.

The museum regularly presents special exhibitions that expand on the themes of the museum, and these often showcase magnificent objects borrowed from museums and institutions around the world.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is a winner of the TripAdvisor Traveller's Choice Award for Museums for 2014 and 2015.

TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice 2014 

Mission

By exploring Asia’s artistic heritage, the Asian Civilisations Museum fosters understanding of the diverse heritage cultures of Singapore, their interconnections, and their connections with the world.

History

The Asian Civilisations Museum was set up in 1993 under the auspices of the National Heritage Board as one of three National Museums, along with the Singapore History Museum (later renamed the National Museum) and the Singapore Art Museum. The idea was to divide the National Collection along the lines of Singapore history, art, and ethnology.

Empress Place Building Birds' Eye View (2003)

The first location

ACM opened in the former Tao Nan School Building on Armenian Street on 21 April 1997, with then Deputy PM Lee Hsien Loong presiding. The museum included 10 galleries, with thematic displays on China and space for special exhibitions. Later, a Peranakan display was added, after a special exhibition on the topic proved especially popular.

ACM at Armenian Street

A new venue

In 2003, the ACM opened a second venue at the historic Empress Place Building. Completed in 1867, the neoclassical-style building along the Singapore River was used for over 100 years to house colonial and, later, Singapore government offices. Renovations to design this second venue had begun in 1997, even before the Armenian Street location opened. Conversion of the building into a state-of-the-art museum took 5 years. New areas and structures were built, and the museum opened with over 14,000 sqm of floor area, including 2,800 sqm of gallery space, and a range of facilities aimed at making the museum a lifestyle attraction.

ACM in 2003

Collection

The ACM’s collection began with objects from the colonial Raffles Library and Museum. The major part was ethnological materials collected in Southeast Asia – examples of the crafts, tools, weapons, utensils, and costume of the Malay and other indigenous Southeast Asian cultures. There was also a small collection of Chinese objects. Collections in new areas were started in the 1990s – West Asia/the Islamic world, and South Asia – so that the ACM could fulfill its mission to highlight the roots of Singapore’s different ethnic groups in the various cultures and civilisations of Asia. The ACM collection continues to grow through acquisitions, donations, and loans from organisations and private individuals. The collection is now one of the most comprehensive in the region.

The Peranakan Museum

On 25 April 2008, the Peranakan Museum was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Operated and managed by the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Peranakan Museum explores the culture of hybrid communities in the former Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca, and Penang, and their links with other communities in Southeast Asia. The Armenian Street ACM building had closed at the end of 2005, and, because of the immense popularity of the Peranakan displays in the old ACM, was redeveloped into a brand new Peranakan Museum.

Peranakan Museum