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Night at expanded museum
THE Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), one of history buffs' favourite haunts, has expanded its premises to include two new wings. It's set to celebrate the first phase of its S$25-million makeover this weekend with a 24-hour party that begins at 7pm on Saturday and ends at the same time on Sunday. There will be concerts, film screenings, art-making activities, museum tours, mass tai chi and a DJ party - all of which you're encouraged to turn up in your pyjamas for.
Of the two wings, the Riverfront Wing is perhaps the more exciting. Located facing the Singapore River, it features the Tang Shipwreck collection. The shipwreck was found off Belitung Island in Indonesia in 1998 with tens of thousands of artefacts including 60,000 ceramic pieces as well as gold and silver items. The 9th century vessel was sailing from China to Iran and Iraq around 830 to 840 AD when tragedy struck.
Museum director Alan Chong says: "The shipwreck was acquired by the Singapore government about 10 years ago. The ownership was transferred to the National Heritage Board and ACM because it integrates so well with this museum's story, the story of Singapore's trade and connections with the rest of the world... in this case, for more than 1,100 years."
Visitors this weekend will be able to see the artefacts of the shipwreck for the first time at the museum. They will also be able to experience the virtual sensation of being underwater and getting "a 360-degree" view of several objects of the shipwreck using the ACM VR App.
Notably, the entire shipwreck exhibition is displayed in the Khoo Teck Puat gallery with open windows - a stark contrast to other ACM galleries which display their objects in dark rooms to conserve them.
Dr Chong says: "Many materials such as textiles are light-sensitive, so they need to be kept in fairly dark rooms. But there are also highlights of our collections - such as porcelain, gold and silver - that look better in natural light which allows us to see a full spectrum of their colours."
"The open windows of this gallery also help you see the building and its location in the heart of the Civic District, as well as the Singapore River which is an important historical connection for trade and migration."
Meanwhile, the other new wing of the museum is the Kwek Hong Png wing, named after the Hong Leong Group's founder. The charity arm of the group, Hong Leong Foundation, donated S$5million to the museum in 2012. The wing includes the Scholar In Chinese Culture gallery which contains objects pertaining to the traditions of Chinese scholarship.
For contemporary art lovers, the wing also boasts the Contemporary Project gallery. It currently features a gorgeous sculptural installation by artist Eng Tow. The installation comprises two suspended rice-shaped sculptures, both 5m in length, one brown and one white.
Ms Eng says the sculptures represent Asia's food staple, rice: "They're also in contrasting colours - one light, one dark - symbolic of the opposite sides of everything. In the gallery, they're placed in such a way that they appear to be in constant dialogue with each other."
For more information on ACM celebrations this weekend, visit acm.org.sg/programmes/festivals/24hrsatacm