Visiting the revamped Peranakan Museum on a Tuesday evening.
After four long years of renovation and restoration, the Peranakan Museum at 39 Armenian Street has finally reopened.
Was I looking forward to this reopening? Well, I was, and that’s partly because of a temporary exhibition on Peranakan culture that I visited at the ACM last year. But more so than that, I missed how the Peranakan Museum would come alive with lights and special shows during the Singapore Night Festival. 2019 and 2022’s SG Night Fest just didn’t feel the same without the museum on the programme list.
As for the revamped exhibits, there are now over 800 objects on show, with nine galleries spread across three floors. The overall theme of the museum has changed too. There is now a greater focus on different Peranakan cultures and communities, and not just Chinese Peranakan heritage.
I confess. I didn’t know that there are different Peranakan communities such as Arab Peranakans or Jawi Peranakans. I always thought the name refers solely to Straits-Born Chinese.
It’s great that the museum is now taking an effort to highlight this diversity.
History of the Peranakan Museum
A brief history of the Peranakan Museum and the historical building it is housed in before I share the pictures I took on Tuesday.
What was formally the Old Tao Nan School was restored and converted into the Armenian Street Wing of the Asian Civilisations Museum in the latter part of the 1990s—I remember attending an Egyptian exhibition here in 1999. Years later, in 2006, the wing was closed for conversion into a showcase of Peranakan culture.
According to Wikipedia, the objective then was to house the world’s most comprehensive collection of Peranakan artifacts and wares. In all, this “conversion” took some two years, with the brand new Peranakan Museum opening in April 2008.
If I remember correctly, I visited a few months after the 2008 opening; around November, I think. Down the road, I believe I next visited sometime in 2012 or 2013 with a grassroots group I was volunteering with, before heading in for a quick look during Singapore Night Festival 2017.
My memory of these visits: they were all enjoyable and full of beauty. I have always loved museums, especially smaller, themed ones. What was on show at the Peranakan Museum of then was also comprehensive without being overwhelming. The entire museum was well-maintained, thoughtfully laid out, and easy to navigate.
I’m pleased to say that with this latest restoration/upgrade, this boutique museum is now better than ever.
Nine Galleries Celebrating Singaporean Peranakan Culture
As mentioned above, the revamped Peranakan Museum now houses nine galleries exhibiting different aspects of Singaporean Peranakan culture.
Spread across three floors, with lift access at the back of the building, the galleries are also extremely easy to navigate—each floor is essentially a “square.”
Do take note though, if visiting, that there aren’t nine differently named galleries. Three of the second-floor galleries share the same name of “Family and Community Life.”
Outside of these nine permanent galleries, there are also special exhibition galleries at the back of the building. Unfortunately, there was no special exhibition ongoing when I visited on Tuesday.
Update July 2023
Walked past the museum while on my way to photograph this’s year National Museum National Day light-up, and the piazza was completely deserted. Couldn’t resist taking a night shot of the illuminated façade.
It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? Truly one of the most beautiful and classically ornate buildings in Singapore.
The Peranakan Museum is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm. On Fridays, hours are extended to 9 pm. Singaporeans and PRs also enter for free!
For visitors using public transportation, the museum is about 10-minute walk from Bras Basah MRT Station or City Hall MRT Station.