Museum puts on show on television

Growing up in the 1980s, Mr Raymond Soh remembers eagerly waiting for the magic hour of 3pm each day. That was when television transmission would start.

The 37-year-old engineer "spent lots of time watching Chinese drama series and children's programmes such as Electric Company and Sesame Street".

He is among those who contributed their memories and photographs of TV's impact on their lives to 50 Years Of Television: An Exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore. It runs till Jan 19 at the Stamford Gallery and admission is free.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the goggle box's arrival. Over the years, it has played a part in recording pivotal moments in Singapore's history and also entertained with homemade dramas.

The story of TV is told in five sections at the exhibition: TV Comes To Singapore (1963-1985), Making Television Our Own (1986-2013), Televising Singapore, From The Reel World To The Real World & Celebrity Culture and The Future Of Television.

From a pricey luxury item that only a few could afford in the 1960s, the TV set is now very much taken for granted. Back in January 1963, only 1.5 per cent of the population owned a TV set.

In January 2009, 98.5 per cent owned at least one TV set. These are among the informative statistics found at the show.

Curator Vicky Wong, 34, says the exhibition highlights the communal setting of TV watching from the early days of watching it at a community centre to families watching programmes together.

She notes: "It's not just about what we watched but how we watched it and who we watched it with."

Accordingly, the television set is placed in different social contexts at the exhibition, from community centre to living room to kopitiam.

Ms Wong herself has fond memories of accompanying her grandmother to the community centre. She says: "I remember watching the adults watching television and she and her friends would scold the bad guys together."

The exhibition will likely bring back more memories for visitors and they can contribute to the Singapore Memory Project at a display there. The project aims to document memories related to Singapore.

One can also find key items and moments from the history of TV in Singapore highlighted at the museum.

There is a 1960s Zenith console set from the launch of Television Singapura at Victoria Memorial Hall in 1963, and a video clip of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressing viewers as Singaporeans for the first time in 1965 after the announcement of the island's separation from Malaysia.

And drama buffs would be stoked to see the original costumes worn by actress Xiang Yun and the late Huang Wenyong for the period series The Awakening (1984) as well as costumes from other hit programmes.

Secretary Irene Tjoeng, 49, had watched shows such as swimming drama Flying Fish (1983) and was happy to see an old magazine cover featuring its leading man Wang Yuqing.

She says of a wall display of magazine covers: "It's like looking at the past and seeing how the actors and actresses looked then."

The final section of the exhibition notes that media content is increasingly less tethered to a TV set and because of busy lifestyles, people want the flexibility to watch TV on the go.

Ms Wong says wistfully though: "When I finished curating this show, I felt quite sad because I really missed the times when my family came to watch TV together.

Now we only make an effort twice a year - at Chinese New Year and for the National Day Parade."

bchan@sph.com.sg


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