This is Part 2 of our coverage on Press’ 2022 learning journey. You can access Part 1 here.
Photos courtesy of Mr Patrick Wong and Mirella Ang (22A01C)
If you came from Part 1 of our coverage of our Prexcursion, you might be wondering: surely Raffles Press didn’t just spend school money on three separate meals and called that their learning journey?
Well, apart from paying homage to the array of cuisines to be found here in sunny Singapore (surprise surprise), we also did other fun, more educational things. And what better way to kick off our gallivanting than with some good ol’ kite flying?
By Faith Ho (22A01A) and Lara Tan (22A01B)
First stop, Marina Barrage: the mother of all golden hour picnic spots, except that day we were there around 8.30am on a Wednesday morning.
It was hard not to appreciate the futuristic, utilitarian architecture of this dam-reservoir-recreational space. Alighting from the bus, we walked up the winding grassy slope to the roof.
Though it was a sunny day, the faltering traces of wind made it a little difficult to catch the wind and bring the kite into the sky. Some of us got the hang of it, holding kites that stretched high into the clouds.
Regardless of whether or not we were successful kite flyers, the kites certainly brought out the inner kid in all of us. Before long, many of us were running around in the hopes of catching a bit of wind.
For those who wanted to take a break, they could retreat to the few benches and shade at the end of the field, enjoying the wind that was slowly picking up speed. We were eventually joined by two other groups of students—kite flying was evidently a popular activity.
We were just about to wrap things up when the clouds started darkening, and some of us took this last chance to send our kites into the sky. Eventually, as the first drops of rain started coming down, we headed towards our next destination.
Sustainable Singapore Gallery
By Faith Ho (22A01A) and Lara Tan (22A01B)
As the rain fell, we sought shelter at the nearby Sustainability Gallery. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any videos and pictures; nonetheless, it was a memorable exhibit.
Presenting a vision of Singapore’s sustainable future, there were exhibitions on all aspects of the environment, from individual actions one can take to reduce their carbon footprint to policy-level changes made to improve Singapore’s environment.
The myriad of interactive exhibits—from bike cycling to a quiz on how good our environmental habits are—allowed for an engaging and immersive experience. The gallery also featured many pieces of art, from the exhibit in the middle about stingrays with embroidered images, to a humongous column created entirely out of trash.
Even though climate predictions are dire, this futuristic exhibit left us with optimism about the efforts that we can make collectively to improve our environment.
Singapore Musical Box Museum
By Chern Huan Yee (22S06A) and Chung Thong En (22S06N)
It was entirely by chance that Press managed to stumble upon the obscure Singapore Musical Box Museum. A modest signboard was the only indication that the adjoining Chong Wen Ge building held more than mere historical significance and a café.
The museum was set up in 2015 by Japanese collector Naoto Orui, who brought his vast collection all the way from Mihama, Japan. His interest in Singapore was first piqued after seeing a musical box that was made here almost 200 years ago.
Now, his collection has musical boxes from as far back as the mid-16th century. Impressively, most of the boxes are still in good working condition — Mr Orui played a few of them for us as he led our tour group around the room.
Mr Orui maintains each of the musical boxes with care, using the skills he picked up from watchmaking. When we visited, one of the old jukeboxes was out of commission, having been broken months before. The boxes contain many intricate moving parts, so any damage to them requires a substantial amount of time to repair. “It will take me several more months to fix it,” Mr Orui said.
The very first musical box was created in the 16th century after people observed the inner workings of a clock and found they could alter it to create something new. From then on, musical boxes have evolved multiple times, starting with one with bells and a barrel that had to be manually turned to play music, and progressing to automation with the cylindrical type (as seen below). These took a long time to produce, sometimes even up to years.
In fact, one of Mr Orui’s reasons for bringing his collection here was to fulfil the wish of his mentor, Mr Graham Webb. The musical box Mr Orui saw was in Webb’s possession, who passed it on to him in the hopes of bringing it back to where it came from.
As a little bonus at the end of the tour, Mr Orui led our small group to a table, with small DIY paper-strip musical boxes. With a smile, he showed us how to insert our tickets into the boxes —as it turns out, our oddly holey tickets were in fact ‘scores’ for these musical boxes! We continued playing around with the tickets back at the café area.
Visits to the museum have to be booked beforehand, and tickets purchased at the café counter. Entry costs $12 for adults and $6 for students and elderly. The museum is a two-minute stroll from Telok Ayer MRT station, via Exit A.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
By Duncan Phang (22A13B) and Mei Feifei (22A13A)
The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is a national monument and heritage institution located in the Balestier area and a short walk from Novena MRT.
Known as the ‘father of modern China’, the museum’s namesake Dr Sun Yat Sen was the leader of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty. The villa (previously named Wan Qing Yuan) that now houses the museum served as the headquarters for Dr Sun to coordinate his revolutionary movement from Singapore.
The first floor is dedicated to four permanent galleries. Each gallery contains artefacts of Dr Sun and his fellow revolutionaries but with a focus on the role played by Singapore and the broader Nanyang region in the 1911 Revolution.
As we walked through the galleries, the displays showed us the deep connections between Singapore, Southeast Asia, and China, that we previously did not give much thought to. “It’s nice to know about the more regional side of our history apart from the British colonial era,” said Lara Tan (22A01B).
Of course, we did not just visit the museum for the (very fun) history lesson. As part of this year’s Singapore Heritage Fest, the Memorial Hall also featured a funky nianhua (auspicious art) exhibit.
Featuring deities, variations of mythical guardians and auspicious art, nianhua encapsulates the contemporary values and beauty standards of its time.
One piece that we found particularly interesting was Five boys playing musical instruments (Republican period), a set of two art pieces featuring, well, five boys playing musical instruments. While the faces of the children looked more or less the same, their attire, haircuts, and the instruments they played were noticeably different.
In the artwork on the right, traditional Chinese instruments such as the xiaogu coexist with the European trombone, showing the influence of Western culture on Republican China. The transition from Qing dynasty-style partially shaved heads to full heads of hair also served to reflect the oft-tumultuous period of rapid social and political change of the time.
Featuring beautiful grounds, a rare surviving colonial-style villa and well-curated exhibits, the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is definitely worth a visit.
Admission is free for all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. You may find out more about the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall’s history and ongoing exhibitions here.
MINT Museum of Toys
By Andrea Ng (22S06B), Mandy Wong (22S03C), and See Man Teng (22S03A)
Inconspicuous at first glance, the MINT Museum of Toys is tucked away among the row of shophouses on 26 Seah Street. The museum has opened its doors to the public since 5 March 2007 and boasts an internationally award-winning collection of toys, comics and artworks.
Do not let its small, narrow exterior fool you as this museum is actually seven storeys tall and is home to over 50,000 pieces of vintage toys and artefacts. All floors are connected by a central lift — but we highly recommend taking the stairs from top to bottom as each landing is decorated with walls of toys and antiques.
In addition, there is also an AR feature that can allow you to see the toys animated and provide a more interactive experience.
Upon deciding that we would rather walk down the stairs than up, our group went back in time from the sixth floor by first taking a lift up.
The sixth floor was an open air balcony adorned with vintage advertisements, which gave off the feel of a bar in the 1800s. The vintage adverts were mostly filled with food items like Horlicks Powder, Nestle Chocolate, and Bear Brand Swiss Milk, sporting the telltale art styles of the past.
The fifth floor, themed “Outer Space”, displayed a whopping collection of sci-fi themed toys. From robots and aliens to laser guns and spaceships painted in vibrant shades of reds and blues, these 1800s toys reflected an age of intense exploration, particularly of the “world beyond”.
Stepping into the fourth floor exhibit was like stepping into those times before we had our phones. The main theme of this floor was storybooks and board games, hosting lovable childhood characters like Snow White and Tintin, as well as old-time classic games like Chinese checkers and Ludo.
Some of us could hardly resist trying out the interactive board games together for a friendly match, or just admiring the legendary storybook figures that we had left behind in our childhood.
Be warned—those with pediophobia might find the third floor a nightmare. This floor features dolls from before the World Wars to those from franchises that stretched well into the 2010s.
And it was here that we learnt a darker purpose behind the innocuous art of doll-making. While toy companies today aim to maximise profit, and traditional dolls were made purely for entertainment, other dolls were sometimes used during historical conflicts as propaganda.
The second and final floor of the toy exhibits was artfully placed, transporting us back into the old Singapore—where the first thing that caught our eye was the huge hopscotch carpet that paved the walkway.
Other than hopscotch, there was also a small games shelf filled with traditional favourites like capteh and congkak, as well as display windows which sported odd contraptions such as a live hangman! (With a hangman doll. We didn’t hang anyone.)
Before we knew it, our time at the museum was almost up, and so was our trip down six floors of memory lane.
Overall, this visit, while short, was undoubtedly one of the most memorable trips to a museum we had ever made. Everything in this place overflowed with history and nostalgia, and this is where it outdoes itself. It doesn’t just feature toys, but also something for everyone.
If you are looking for a quick getaway from adulting and adulthood, we highly recommend paying a visit to the MINT Museum of Toys.