Review of the Living Galleries at the National Museum of Singapore
Gallery: Photography – Framing the Family
In most history museums today, photographs are used to supplement the story being told. After all, many would agree that it is more interesting to observe a real-life object than to look at its 2-dimensional counterpart in a photograph. It is no wonder many museums today have become synonymous with halls filled with life-like replicas or originals of ancient objects. Not so, at one of the four Living Galleries in the National Museum of Singapore. In what seems like an almost audacious move, the museum allows photography to take the center stage.
Entitled “Photography – Framing the Family”, the two-room exhibition is one of the four Singapore Living Galleries in the National Museum that attempts to “use art, technology and popular culture in innovative and engaging ways to present the stories of Singapore’s ordinary people and social elite”. It is therefore not surprising that the three other galleries are each devoted to Film & Wayang, Food, and Fashion respectively; well-known pastimes among modern-day Singaporeans. Perhaps the aim of the Singapore Living Galleries to tell the human stories of Singapore’s people should be re-emphasized, since from their names, most visitors are likely to assume that these galleries detail the development of these forms of ‘pastimes’ in Singapore. In fact, the museum itself does not seem to have a clear direction in terms of this. In the second room of the Photography gallery, there is a brief, almost half-hearted attempt at explaining the development of photography in Singapore through the ages, such as the setting up of various studios. A small collection of olden cameras with little explanation at the far side of the room further attests to this fact.
In actual fact, however, the Photography gallery’s objective is to “look at how families in Singapore have evolved over the past 100 years through...