A house for creatures great and small

DINOSAURS are here to stay at the new 8,500 sq m, $46 million Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which opens its doors to the public on April 28.

Prince, Apollonia and Twinky, three 150-million-year-old diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons, are the stars of the museum's main gallery that traces the history of life on earth.

The museum is Singapore's first and only natural history museum and is home to over a million plant and animal specimens.

Visitors can expect to see more than 2,000 specimens, divided into 15 zones, in the exhibition gallery which covers some 2,500 sq m. The rest will be kept for research and education purposes.

The main floor showcases the history and biodiversity of plants and animals on our planet, focusing on plants and animals from South-east Asia.

The mezzanine floor consists of two main areas - the heritage gallery, consisting of specimens from the original Raffles Museum, and the Singapore Today area which introduces the geology of Singapore and conservation efforts here.

The move from the old to new museum started in August last year and ends today.

It was a delicate journey that required a team of seven museum curators, 10 professional art movers and five student assistants and museum specialists.

Before the move, the specimens were placed in waterproof boxes to prevent condensation, then frozen at -21 deg C for two weeks in a big refrigerated container outside the museum as part of the decontamination process.

They were then thawed before being stored or displayed in the new building.

The museum has a long history, starting in 1878 as the Raffles Library and Museum. It was Sir Stamford Raffles' idea to build a depository for specimens of the region's flora and fauna.

It underwent several changes before the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), comprising the zoological collection and herbarium, was formed in 1998.

There, visitors could see a small part of the museum's collection in the public gallery, which was opened in 2000 on the third floor of Block S6 at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Kent Ridge Campus.

But the RMBR collection was so large, only 0.1 per cent of it could be on show at any one time, leading to a quest for a bigger home.

The opening of the new museum, next to the University Cultural Centre at the NUS, will likely renew public interest in Singapore's biodiversity and natural heritage.


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