Budget 2014: $65m plan to beef up cultural institutions

Two top museums will get more room for precious artefacts and new exhibits as part of a $65 million effort to rejuvenate Singapore's cultural institutions.

Some $10 million has been set aside for the National Museum of Singapore and $25 million for the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday.

The ACM at Empress Place will get a redesigned lobby, new shops and dining options.

Its permanent galleries will be expanded, adding a total of about 1,500 sq m to the building. This will give the museum more space to house artefacts such as the Tang Cargo, a selection of more than 50,000 objects salvaged from the Java Sea.

Mr Wong said his ministry is also exploring a new entrance for the museum - one which opens onto the Singapore River. He added: "We may combine this with a new gallery space that will breathe more light into the museum.

"This needs a bit more study, but it is a potential game-changer."

The revamp comes on the heels of a record year for museum visitorship, with more than three million visitors to national museums after free entry for Singapore citizens and permanent residents was implemented.

Meanwhile, a new 344 sq m wing dedicated to children and young families will be introduced at the National Museum.

Called Play@NMS, it will open in May and will emphasise interactivity and hands-on learning.

Teacher Ong Xin Yi, 29, is hoping the new venue will mean that her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Hannah has an opportunity to go to more museum exhibitions.

Many shows are currently not accessible to youngsters, and the family ends up not going.

Ms Ong said: "We are always looking out for things we can do together as a family, and we are firm believers of how children can learn through art and experiential learning."

In his speech, Mr Wong also said the National Museum will capture more "everyday heritage" by gathering stories and artefacts from Singaporeans from all walks of life to incorporate into the museum experience.

Some $21 million will go to sprucing up the Esplanade and developing a children's theatre within the performing arts centre, and about $9 million to the Heritage Conservation Centre.


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