Name of revamped museum stirs debate

Name of revamped museum stirs debate
PHOTO: The Straits Times

It has yet to open to the public but the new name of the revamped museum at the former Ford Factory - Syonan Gallery - has already raised a eyebrows.

Some ask if it is an appropriate name, saying that it seems to be honouring the Japanese Occupation. Singapore was renamed Syonan-to by the Japanese in 1942. It means "Light of the South".

The name Syonan Gallery is emblazoned across the entrance of the World War II museum in Upper Bukit Timah Road. The full name is Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies.

The museum, operated by the National Archives of Singapore (NAS), reopens next Wednesday on the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, following a year-long revamp.

Heritage expert and law professor Kevin Tan said: "I think a more appropriate name might have to be found as it suggests a celebration of the time. The frontage could be more sensitive."

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the National Library Board, which oversees the NAS, said the name was selected in consultation with the public via focus group sessions which included history academics, museum guides, students and parents.

Its spokesman added: "Syonan is a historical name easily recognisable and associated with the Japanese Occupation..."

The museum was also the site of the British surrender of Singapore to the Japanese on Feb 15, 1942.

Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, and the media were given a tour of the museum yesterday.

Some do not see a problem with the name. Retired teacher K. Nadarajah, 89, who survived the war, said "enough time has passed".

Heritage blogger Jerome Lim said that while the name has negative connotations, it can "jolt those less aware of the horrors associated with the war".

FOR MORE, SEE THE STRAITS TIMES TODAY

This article by The Straits Times was published in The New Paper, a free newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

 

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