My visit to the National Museum provided me with knowledge about Singapore’s history and served me insightful details. Singapore was on the verge of modernisation, mainly due to the British colony in early Singapore days. In this essay, I will discuss the theme of “Modern Colony” gallery and highlight some of the key takeaways from the exhibit that have helped me deepen my own knowledge about Singapore’s history.
Upon entering the gallery, I was greeted by a display of exhibition pieces. Four large, tall pillars stand rooted in gallery. The pillars were complimented with a showcase of beautiful cocktail dresses on top of a grandiose staircase. I was surrounded with exhibits promoting British novelties, which include exquisite tableware and beautiful glass potteries. The music played was a smooth, classical jazz that made me feel like I was in old British bar. The dim lights shone well onto the wooden floors, and the room was surrounded by rustic walls. The theme is replicating a black and white bungalow, housing the affluent and portraying their way of lavish living before World War II. This challenges my understanding about the way of life in Singapore in the past.
The structure of the gallery gave me an insight of how some of the rich lived in Singapore. It shows that people living in Singapore associated the British culture as being more affluent, hence families try to achieve this way of living to portray a wealthy image. This is an opposite of how I see the rich lived in the past. I only understood that the rich lived in a more traditional Asian/Peranakan setting. I thought that the affluent in Singapore would hold true to their culture, and not be influenced by the British culture. I feel this way because there are very few traces of the British culture in Singapore now.
Secondly, a section in the gallery, “Women’s roles in the 1920s and 1930s” contributes to my understanding about women’s progress. This section describes how women lived and explains the roles of woman in 1920s. Women were already progressing and given more opportunities in society. They were no longer confined to the walls of their homes and were stepping out into the public realm. Women could attend schools, in contrast to the 1900s, when education for women was almost non-existent. By 1930s, several girls’ school were built all over Singapore. Although they were only allowed to attend school up to an age of 12, and their purpose of going to school was to prove themselves worthy of their husbands, this was still a progress compared to the situation in 1900s. This section supports my understanding of women’s progress in Singapore being upbeat and rapid. Women’s progress in Singapore is very fast because within a short time frame of 20 years, massive progressive changes were made within the women community. Based on my current understanding of women, they are given the same opportunity as men, because I am a part of a system where women are more liberal and not confined to traditional believes that they only need to serve their families. Hence, I believe women’s progress in Singapore has been improving rapidly, compared to countries that still oppress women. Therefore, this section supports to my understanding of women’s progress in the past.
Finally, a section in the gallery, “A man’s world: Affluent lives” contributes to my understanding about the technological advancements in Singapore. In this part of the gallery, they explained how Singapore was a bustling city, made a main trading port due to its advancements in maritime technology. They explained that Singapore was receptive to new technology brought from other countries into the world. I believe that Singapore’s positive reception of new technologies had shaped Singapore to be where it is now. I agree with this because I’m living in a very advanced technological era and living in Singapore allows me to be exposed to all these new technologies.
All in all, the visit to the gallery has been very insightful. Many of the information aligns with how I see Singapore in the past. However, the layout of the whole gallery portraying the affluent British lifestyle was something new for me.
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