Singapore’s Peranakan Museum Has Reopened

Revamped exhibition spaces, deeper insights, and a trove of recently added artifacts await.

The exterior of Singapore’s Peranakan Museum. (All photos courtesy of Peranakan Museum)

A dazzling combination of ultramodern architecture and tropical gardens may be one of its main calling cards, but Singapore also punches well above its weight when it comes to world-class heritage museums. One such attraction, the three-story Peranakan Museum on the doorstep of Fort Canning Park, has just reopened after nearly four years of renovations. The refurbished interiors host brand-new permanent galleries designed to create a more immersive visitor experience: interactive displays, new thematic showcases, and programs highlight the diversity of Peranakan cultures found in Singapore and Southeast Asia as a whole.

During the overhaul, the museum worked together with various Peranakan communities to explore lesser-known aspects of their heritage. Visitors can look forward to interviews and personal stories about the Arab Peranakans, Chinese Peranakans, Chitty Melakans (or Peranakan Indians), and Jawi Peranakans, as they learn about the distinctive customs and practices of each group and their place within the larger Malay-Indonesian world. A ground-floor gallery charts the genesis and evolution of Peranakan communities from the past to the present day through hand-colored photographs and photo walls.

Spaces on the second floor present objects related to family and community life, revealing a range of Peranakan customs, foods, languages and beliefs. In total, nine galleries tackle three overarching themes that cover different facets of Peranakan identity: Origins, Home, and Style. The third-floor inaugural Style galleries are dedicated to the making of batik as objects of fashion and furnishing, and celebrates Peranakan craftsmanship and design in the decorative arts. Besides familiar artifacts and set-pieces seen by previous visitors, an extensive range of new objects acquired or donated over the course of the last decade will be put on display. Over 800 objects have been gathered under one roof; among a trove of newly commissioned pieces inspired by Peranakan identity is contemporary artist Sam Lo’s installation Coming Home, which takes pride of place in the central airwell.

Left to right: A radiogram with Plessey autochanger and two HMV 78rpm records from 141 Neil Road; a hand-painted photograph of Chinese Peranakan matriarch Lie Pa-toe Nio.

Left to right: An early-20th-century Chitty Melaka addigai necklace; the entrance of the museum.

Inside the Peranakan Museum’s third-floor fashion gallery.

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