13 April 2011

A sneak peek at Singapore's new natural history museum!

Currently, the public can glimpse only less than 1% of the total collection of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, at its tiny but well-loved public gallery. So I'm very excited about plans to build a new natural history museum. With massive space to showcase more of our wonderful biodiversity!
Artist's impression of proposed Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
Today, I was kindly invited to get a sneak peek at plans for the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum!

The architectural consultant for the new museum has just been appointed, and many teams set up to look into various aspects of this exciting project! Consultants from the Natural History Museum (UK) have been engaged and a series of workshops are being run over the next few days to lay the groundwork for a master-plan for the new museum.
A view of the new museum from the side.
To be built from scratch, the new museum will be at least 7,000 sq m in size, with a minimum 2,000 sq m - or 10 times the current museum's size - devoted to exhibition space. Wah! It's huge enough to take a dinosaur!
The new natural history museum will be located next to the existing Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, NUS Cultural Centre and NUS Museum and be a part of an exciting cultural hub for the University. Prof Peter Ng, Director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, explains the long term plans for this hub.
After lots of lively discussion over the proposal, the entire team headed out for a site visit. Here we are across the road from the very impressive Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. The new natural history museum will be located to the right of it in this photo.
We had a lovely tour of the Conservatory, which has an awesome concert hall! It also has other amazing facilities, and we were treated to the sound of wonderful music throughout our trip.
We then hopped over to the NUS museum, which contains all kinds of interesting spaces including the Lee Kong Chian Collection.
The Ng Eng Teng Collection is fascinating with many works by this famous Singaporean artist.
There is also a South & Southeast Asian Collection with intriguing displays of all kinds of historical artifacts.
And a quirky display of some contemporary art!
We also had a quick look at the NUS Cultural Centre where large groups of students were clearly in the middle of a cultural event! How exciting for the new natural history museum to be a part of this lively area.
The team then headed back to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research to have a look at the existing public gallery there. Although the space is tiny, it is packed with all kinds of amazing biodiversity from Singapore and beyond. This highly endangered massive leathery turtle, which landed on the shores of Siglap beach in 1883, is likely to be a highlight at the new museum!
The new museum will also be home to the existing collection of 500,000 specimens of mammals, birds, amphibians and other invertebrates. The team has a look at this precious heritage of ours.  This is the oldest natural history collection of animals in Singapore, including some century-old artefacts and extinct animals. It is also one of the largest collections of Southeast Asian animals in the region and is the second oldest natural history collection in Southeast Asia after Indonesia's Bogor Museum.
Among the many specimens there, we have a look at the world's smallest fish and smallest vertebrate! Discovered by a team which included Dr Tan Heok Hui of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research in 2006. More about this fish in the old RMBR news blog. The museum does enormously important work to understand and preserve the rapidly disappearing and threatened biodiversity in Singapore and beyond.
During our little 'field trip', we even encounter wildlife at the NUS bus stop. A scary hustle of Fire ants hauling off some wasps! Of course the museum consultants have a closer look at them too!
Thank you to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research for inviting me to be a part of this exciting project!

You CAN make a difference for the new museum!
Funds are still needed to make this museum a reality. A website has been launched to accept donations from the public. Your gift will help to create a museum that we all can be proud of! You can donate online, by cheque or call 6516-5082 to make donations in cash or other gifts.

Can the public see anything of the collection now?
Yes, RMBR has a small public gallery displaying fascinating specimens from Singapore and beyond. Opened in 2001, here's more about what you can see at the gallery. And here's an account of one visit there during the recent Museum Open House.

Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Mon to Fri, closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.
Location: Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, link to campus map.
Contact: 65-6516-5082

Guided and group tours of the Public Gallery is available, pre-registration required. More details on the RMBR website.

Get updates on the new museum via the RMBR news blog and Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum facebook page.

MORE about the new museum including:

  • What's so special about our natural history collection? 
  • Why is this collection NOT displayed at the National Museum? 
  • Would people want to visit the new museum? 
  • Is a natural history museum important to conservation?


  1. Thanks for this post. It's really interesting to get this perspective on what our (Natural History Museum, London) teams/staff are involved with...

  2. Thanks for dropping by the blog Ian. It was great to spend time with the very knowledgeable and experienced NHM team, who were also lots of fun to be with!

  3. Enviable prospects for a new museum. BTW I think the ants in the last picture are weaver ants. They are not scary .. they are ever so cool! Cheers.

  4. Thank you for your good wishes John! Yes, they are weaver ants! Which have a really nasty bite. So we looked but didn't touch!



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