The Peranakan Museum Reopens After 4 Years of Renovation (Video)

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.

Old Tao Nan School
Do you know that the neoclassical old Tao Nan School building is not only home to the Peranakan Museum, it is also a Singapore national monument?

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.

Peranakan Museum ORIGINS Gallery
Origins is the only gallery on the ground floor and has entire walls of historical photos. The gallery also highlights how there is no single Peranakan culture, with the word Peranakan simply meaning “Child of …”
Origins has a couple of artifacts on display too, as well as remotely controlled interactive screens. (The above pic are curtain ties with metallic thread embroidery. Made around 1920, i.e., over a century ago!)
Historical Pintu Pagar and Sireh Sets (Peranakan Museum)
Family and Community Life occupies three galleries on the second floor and features many shiny exhibits. For example, this incredibly ornate Pintu Pagar (outer gate) and the betel chewing (sireh) sets before it.
Golden Sireh Set
I always thought betel chewing was a street snack thing. I didn’t know enjoying the snack could get so atas (high class)!
Historical Peranakan Silverware
Precious silver and dining ware. Many of these artifacts display a harmonious blend of Eastern and Western influences.
Wedding Pagoda Trays
These pagoda trays were used to bear wedding gifts. They date from the late 19th or early 20th century.
Historical Nyonyaware
Given their fame throughout the world, there is, of course, an entire gallery devoted to Nyonyaware. The highlight of this Ceramics and Food Culture gallery is also a Tok Panjang, or “long table” feast setup.
Batik Tapestries
The Batik gallery has several large tapestries. This one reminded me of the medieval ones I’ve seen in France’s Musée de Cluny.
Peranakan Museum Jewellery Displays
The Jewellery gallery is full of dazzling bridal jewellery and heirlooms. (I think you too get the message that many SG Peranakan families are wealthy?)
Peranakan Museum Fashion Gallery
The old Fashion gallery used to feature a bridal procession. With the new focus on diverse Peranakan cultures, the gallery now showcases all sorts of Kerbaya, Baju Kurungs, beadwork slippers, etc.
Beadwork and Embroidered Purses
These beadwork and embroidered purses are simply gorgeous, aren’t they? Too bad the museum currently doesn’t have a gift shop selling replicas of these.

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.

Singapore Peranakan Museum at Night
The Peranakan Museum at night. Majestic and ornate.

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.

Read my other Home Tourist photo essays.

The Peranakan Museum Reopens After 4 Years of Renovation (Video)
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The Peranakan Museum Reopens After 4 Years of Renovation (Video)
The Peranakan Museum at Armenian Street reopens after years of renovation. This showcase of SG Peranakan culture now features over 800 artifacts.
Scribbling Geek
Scribbling Geek
Geek, gamer, writer, movie lover, photographer, and occasional graphic artist. I like to consider myself a one-stop content creator of sorts. But the truth is, I obsess over too many hobbies.

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