Crowds 'like never before' for local history exhibition

Crowds 'like never before' for local history exhibition
Visitors queued for hours at the National Museum of Singapore yesterday to see the exhibition on Mr Lee’s life and work. The waiting time became so long that admission had to be closed four hours early, at 4pm.

HE HAD waited in line for almost five hours to pay his respects to Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The strain from a recent appendix operation, however, forced Mr Jaiyaseelan to drop out of the queue before he got to Parliament House.

Yesterday, the software engineer in his 30s jumped at the chance to queue again in tribute to Mr Lee, this time for a memorial exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.

Mr Jaiyaseelan, who goes by only one name, said: "This is my last chance to see a part of him."

Long lines formed at the museum for the exhibition on Mr Lee's life and work, snaking out of the building and onto the driveway outside. The waiting time became so long - up to four hours - that admission to the exhibition had to be closed four hours early, at 4pm.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the crowd was like nothing he had ever seen before for a local history exhibition at the museum. "We have seen big crowds for blockbuster exhibitions, like something from Musee d'Orsay, but for history exhibitions, typically we have not had such big crowds.

"It is very good to see such renewed interest in our founding fathers, Mr Lee in particular. This is something we hope to build on when we revamp our permanent galleries, which will be happening later in September."

Although the exhibition has been open since March 25, many visitors said they came in particular to see a red box that Mr Lee used to keep his working documents. It joined the exhibition on Thursday. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat wrote about the box in a widely shared Facebook post on March 24, detailing how it had been a key feature of Mr Lee's life.

Secretary Sharon Khng, 43, said: "The box shows how serious he was about his work. The day before he was hospitalised, he was still working, the box was still with him."

The box is displayed together with other personal items used by Mr Lee, including the barrister wig he wore for admission to the Bar, and a Rolex watch presented to him by the Singapore Union of Postal and Telecommunications Workers.

Cleaner Mary Wey, 68, had already queued three times to see Mr Lee lying in state, but said she did not mind waiting for more than two hours to look at the artefacts. She recalled meeting Mr Lee when she was seven and he stopped at her mother's laundry shop on a walkabout.

"He said she was doing a good job. I had never seen my mother so excited before, she lit firecrackers. I remember he was very, very kind."

Seeing the exhibition left security officer Jesse Kris Rajoo, 60, in tears. She said: "For the past week, I could not sleep or work. He touched everybody's heart, and when I see all these, I can feel he is still with us."

oliviaho@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Chew Hui Min


This article was first published on Apr 4, 2015.
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