Aug 11, 2012

45-65 at the National Museum and A Surprise Discovery

45-65 Liberation, Unrest ... a New Nation

When I got wind of this new exhibition at the National Museum, I was pretty much excited for two reasons. First, admission is free; secondly, it talks about our pre independence history, the period between 1945 and 1965, that I recently found an interest in. Let this short introduction whet your appetite:
The exhibition brings visitors through the tumultuous period of post-war recovery and illustrates the challenges and hardships of building a nation then. At the same time, the awakening of a national consciousness further contributed to the determined struggle for decolonisation and self-rule. The events of these 20 years of rebuilding a nation, independence from the British and separation from Malaysia - set the stage in our quest for a national identity.
The surprising thing is, through the exhibition which I visited on 8 July just one day after its opening, I made a discovery of a "second shot nature", which incidentally has nothing to do with the exhibition at all.

The exhibition curated by the National Archives does not score high on the 'wow' factor, neither is it much publicized nor talked about online. Guess the theme is a bit dry for most people. There is also no flagship artifact on display that will attract a snaking crowd, though there is one related to the first Prime Minister of Singapore. Let's just say the exhibition is a little ... pedestrian. I found out there is an accompanying book to be published at the end of this year on the theme of the exhibition, like a sort of trilogy, after their two previous publications "10 Years That Shaped A Nation, 1965-1975" and "The 2nd Decade – Nation Building In Progress, 1975 - 1985". National Archives has done this - exhibition before book - previously, for their WWII exhibition at former Ford Factory.

Lee Kuan Yew Legislative Assembly Election 1955
Probably the most interesting artifact on display in the exhibition. But careless me, I forgot to take down the caption...

Desks and Chairs from Yeung Ching Primary School (1950s)
Desks and chairs from Yeung Ching Primary School (1950s). Today it has been renamed Yangzheng Primary School. It is amusing that behind these school furniture for kids, we see voting posters from the 1950s. Not like these kids could vote?

Publications by National Archives
National Archives' publications on display at the exhibition, most of them unrelated to the period 1945-1965. The is documentary screening in the adjacent room which I found more interesting, since you can get these books easily from the library but not documentaries.

At the entrance to the gallery, I saw exhibition booklets for grabs in Malay. This is good gesture from the organizers since the captions are in English. As a "national exhibition", you don't want to neglect the three official languages. Neglect they might have, for I only saw the Malay copies. Despite searching high and low, I could not find the Chinese and Tamil copies. Have they been "sold out"?

One thing I find unique about our local exhibitions is the amount of "user-generated content". That is to say, instead of the curating team providing all the content, the audience of their content generate content in the form of personal submission. For 45-65, the audience are prodded to "tell us your story":
You may or may not have lived through the post-war period in Singapore from 1945 to 1965, but we would still like to hear from you. Write or draw out your thoughts and stories to any (or all) of the six questions here and contribute to our stories.
Surely this are the words of a certain eminent Minister made good ... what do you think?

45-65 What do you think?
The audience is encouraged to write or draw out their thoughts and stories on this piece of paper.

As I went on the second day of the exhibition, there were not that many user-generated content. Caveat emptor, the content may not have been vetted by the museum staff and I don't think the staff are that heartless to trash submissions with factual errors. Never mind that these are anonymous submissions.

In Korean ... what does it say?
There is something for everybody. The exhibition is family-oriented as you can see, the kids are also given a copy to colour / draw on. I found this done in Korean. What does it say, anyone?

Konfrantasi 1964?
This one is obviously done by an adult. But wait, can you spot the factual errors? Firstly, the bomb at Macdonald House exploded in 1965, not 1964. Secondly, Konfrantasi commenced in 1963 after the formation of Malaysia, not 1964.

And now to the surprise discovery. It didn't cross my mind in the museum but when I reached home, a thought suddenly flashed across. My thirst for second shot adventures unabated, I wasted no time in digging out the photos for the day, as well as a rare shot of a room interior available online (my copy below is a high-res copy from the Singapore History Gallery). For the moment, I shall leave them uncaptioned and let you form your own conclusion...

Stamford Gallery

Raffles Library