A blockbuster show from London's British Museum and a lavish exhibition tracing Buddhism's evolution through Indian art are among the highlights in store at Singapore museums this year.
The National Museum of Singapore, which will host the Treasures Of World Cultures exhibition from the British Museum from Dec 4, will also unveil its revamped permanent galleries on Sept 12.
The Treasures Of Indian Art exhibition will run at the Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place from June to September. A month later, the museum's much-heralded new wing, revamped galleries and new river-facing entrance on the waterfront will be completed.
These details, as well as the opening of the Indian Heritage Centre in Little India later this year, were announced by the National Heritage Board at a media lunch held yesterday. The Indian Heritage Centre is at the junction of Campbell Lane and Clive Street.
The exhibition of prized artefacts on loan from the British Museum crowns a busy year for the board, which is responsible for managing key museums and heritage centres here.
Treasures Of World Cultures will trace Singapore's 19th-century links with the British East India Company, the impact and influence of colonial rule, as well as the cultural impact of the British empire.
The exhibits, including artefacts and documents, will establish the role of Sir Stamford Raffles as the founder of Singapore as well as a historian of Java.
In addition, Benin bronzes and South African objects from Africa, ancient sculptures from Egypt, and artefacts from India and China will show the impact of colonialism. The exhibition will run for six months till May 29 next year.
Over at the Asian Civilisations Museum from June 18 to Sept 6, another cross-cultural journey will come alive through sculptures and paintings on loan from the Indian Museum in Kolkata. This Treasures Of Indian Art show also marks 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and India.
Come October, visitors can also expect to see a new river-facing entrance on the waterfront with a restaurant managed by the Prive Group and retail spaces at the Asian Civilisations Museum. There will be a new cross-cultural gallery looking at the rich trading culture that has formed the roots of South-east Asia for more than 1,000 years.
New displays include pieces from a Tang dynasty shipwreck which will go on show next year. The ceramics, gold and silver works from Tang Dynasty China have provided scholars with immense historical and educational information. The cargo was fished out from a sunken dhow off the waters near Belitung Island, Indonesia, in the late 1990s to early 2000s.
It is hailed as one of the most important maritime discoveries of the 20th century and the largest collection ever seen of Tang Dynasty artefacts entombed in the oldest Persian vessel found in South-east Asian waters.
To mark Singapore's 50th birthday, the revamped permanent galleries at the National Museum will focus on telling the country's post-independence story, including several of its defining moments.
The newest addition to Singapore's heritage landscape is the Indian Heritage Centre, which opens in the second quarter of this year. Managed by the National Heritage Board, it traces the history of the South Asian community in Singapore and South- east Asia.
It is expected to be a focal point for the Indian community and a platform to learn more about the diverse Indian heritage in Singapore. The centre will be housed in a new four-storey building. It will feature five permanent galleries and will have small-scale museum facilities. The street outside has been pedestrianised to make access easier.
Dr Gauri Krishnan, director of the heritage centre, says it will "help us highlight the contributions of the Indian community in Singapore".
He adds: "Our storyline goes back to the historical past and looks at many aspects, including the contributions of several unknown names in the making of Singapore."
On the programming mix for the year, the National Heritage Board's director of marketing and corporate communications, Ms Cheryl Koh, says:
"We wanted to provide the right mix of something world-class while also showcasing the best of Singapore. This is a particularly significant year for our museums as the nation marks SG50, and the programming reflects that.
"We are taking Singapore to the world and bringing a bit of the world to Singapore. Exhibitions from the British Museum and the Indian Museum also help us examine various cross-cultural narratives and connections."