20 May 2012

Last Open House at the Raffles Museum

Yesterday, I had a bitter sweet time at the last Open House of the Raffles Museum. Early in the day, there were already lots of people gathered to get an inside glimpse of our biodiversity.
David Tan gives an animated introduction to the many bugs and creepy crawlies that can be found in Singapore and the region. All carefully preserved at the museum.

It was nice to see lots of people coming for the Open House! From the very young to the young-at-heart, from all walks of life!
The guided tours of the tiny public gallery is always fascinating. One of the parents was wowed by the stick insect. He thought it was just a stick!
While Rick Leong shares more about our endangered mammals like the pangolin.
Giant skeletons of the real thing are fascinating! This mom was sharing the elephant skull with her kids. I'm awed by the large number of mums and dads who take the time to share nature with their kids!
The main public gallery will remain open until April next year. And even when that closes, lovers of the museum need not wait till the new museum opens to have access to its natural history as it will be holding roving exhibitions as part of its continued public outreach.

The Behind the Scenes tour of the Museum is popular and this will be last look at the situation in the Raffles Museum. Only a miniscule portion of the Museum's collection is displayed in the Public Gallery. Most of the existing collection of 500,000 specimens is packed away in compactors and used for research. The museum's scientific collection will be closed to all but museum staff after September. Joelle Lai not only held up this sign but also held up the entire Open House.
Tze Kwan Fung aka Civetgirl shares more about mammals with an enraptured audience.
The kids marvel at the tiger specimen, which was donated to the museum.
The kids also love some of the more familiar mammals like squirrels, and are thrilled to learn more about them.
Kok Oi Yee, a veteran of natural history, shares more about some of the interesting bird specimens in the museum.
Many of the specimens in the museum are very very old. These birds were collected in the 1800's. Beautifully preserved, in the old style display boxes that were used at the time. To retain such ancient specimens in good condition requires special temperature control and proper care. Birds are preserved in this seemingly odd vertical position often with the stick inserted to keep it aligned, so they often look like 'satay'. This is to conserve storage space.
Tight storage conditions is a constraint at all museums. If you thought the flat otter or 'satay birds' were strange, many of the mammal specimens are even flatter! Dr Tan holds one example. Can you guess what it is?
It's a squirrel! Dr Tan explains how this specimen was made up in the field, in the old days. This made it easy to pack and transport the specimens. Details of the specimen's length, weight and more were noted on the board.
A little further along Kate Pocklington shows how she is helping to restore some of our really old specimens. Restoration is truly an art and requires patience and lots of talent!
The specimen fascinates the kids!
Deep in the working area of the museum usually out of bounds to the public, Tan Siong Kiat introduces some of the interesting molluscs that can be found in Singapore!
I learnt for the first time that the heart cockle has transparent windows in its shell! This is because the clam, like the more famous Giant clam, has symbiotic algae in its body. The light allows the heart cockle's partner algae to produce food from photosynthesis, which is shared with its animal host. Isn't that awesome?! Thanks Siong Kiat!
There are also ENORMOUS shells that can also be found in Singapore's waters!
Of course, clams are among Singapore's favourite seafood. Siong Kiat shows us which parts we eat. Our biodiversity is not only fascinating but vital. Nature provides everything we need to eat, drink, breathe and also feed our soul.
And here's Dr Tan Swee Hee, ready to unveil one of the upcoming treasures to be featured in the new museum. Ready?!
It's the gigantic fossil parts of the dinosaurs to be housed in the new museum! Just this small part of the dino's leg is taller than the kids! Imagine how awesome the entire skeleton will be!
Tucked away in a quiet corner, Toh Chay Hoon is conducting another wonderful session of making animals out of clay. Always in the background Dr Tan Heok Hui takes great shots of the action. He gives me a few tips on how to take photos of people. I'm not too good at that, so all my people photos turn out looking like specimen photos. Need to bear in mind "Depth of Field"!
As we look ahead to the new museum, the theme for this clay making session is of course dinosaurs.
Chay Hoon gives the participants tips on how to give their dinosaurs legs!
This is an intriguing interpretation. Are the blue blobs dino fossils? Dino poop? Hmmm...
There was also an activity to 'excavate' your own dino fossil. The kids worked very hard to chip out the treasures embedded in the 'rock'.
Also all kinds of other fun activities such as face and hand painting of interesting biodiversity.
I also bumped into Prof Leo Tan sharing with visitors at the Gallery. Prof has played a pivotal role not only in making the new museum possible, but also in Singapore conservation in general.
As usual, Greasi produces yet another scrumptious lunch for the volunteers! It was a great time to makan, reminisce, plan for the future and catch up with the many volunteers, staff and supporters of the museum.
Pei Yan also shared a post about the Open House.

It was bitter sweet to spend the last Open House at the museum. But there's a bright future ahead, with more space for more people, more specimens and of course, dinosaurs!

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. The new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum will have 10 times the current museum's size devoted to exhibition space, as well as more classroom and activity space.

In some ways, the Open House was one of the triggers that led to the new museum! In 2009, thousands turned up for the museum Open House resulting in letters to the press about the need for larger facilities and broader questions were askedIs it not high time that Singapore has a stand-alone natural history museum? After much hard work, in what seems a very short time, the new museum is now a reality!

You CAN make a difference for the new museum!
Funds are still needed for the new museum. 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?
Don't worry if you missed the Open House. You can still visit the RMBR public gallery at other times until April 2013. Displaying fascinating specimens from Singapore and beyond, here's more about what you can see at the gallery.

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.

Even after the main gallery closes in April 2013, lovers of the museum need not wait till the new museum opens in 2014 to have access to its natural history. There will be roving exhibitions as part of the museum's continued public outreach.

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?

About this Open House

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