SINGAPORE - A new wing will open at the National Museum of Singapore next month which aims to get children as young as three interested in the country’s history.
The $300,000 Play@NMS is being developed on the museum’s third floor and will feature indoor and outdoor play areas where kids can participate in craft activities, pick up art forms such as puppetry and interact with a range of multimedia exhibits.
The 700 sq m space will even feature national history drawings by William Farquhar – Singapore’s first resident and commandant who helped Sir Stamford Raffles establish a trading post.
However his 19th century watercolour songbirds and butterflies will appear in cut-out shapes.
“The museum is sometimes thought of as an austere place but we want people to know that it’s not a library and that children should be able to have fun here,” said museum director Angelita Teo. “There will be something for everyone in the long run.”
A team from the museum visited counterparts overseas, such as Seoul’s Hello Museum and Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum, but found that didactic exhibits accompanied by child-friendly text did not always appeal to their target audience.
Ms Christie Chua, assistant director of audience development and partnerships at the museum, said the team therefore created a tactile environment for kids to have multi-sensory experiences.
These will include dressing up in different ethnic costumes and crawling into an indoor canopy space specially set up for them to watch animated short films by Singaporeans.
They will also get to recreate their own versions of local delicacies in a kitchen while playing “masak masak” – the Malay term for a game of pretend cooking.
Play@NMS will open officially on May 24, at the launch of this year’s Children’s Season – a month-long festival of activities for kids and their families.
Ms Teo, who joined the museum as director last July, hopes to encourage a museum-going culture among children.
She also wants to attract young parents who may be busy with work and family commitments and offer them an alternative to going to the shopping mall.
Visitor numbers at the museum have grown from 875,000 in 2012 to 1.2 million last year – about 180,000 of whom were students.
It is hoped that at least 100,000 children will visit Play@NMS in its first year.
“We hope the children will enjoy themselves in the special place we’ve created for them,” said Ms Chua. “And with their families get to learn more about Singapore.”
This article was published on April 19 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.