The museum therefore explores art that blends different ideas, as a means of achieving understanding that encompasses different religions, languages, and creative forms. As one of the national museums of Singapore under the National Heritage Board, the museum also seeks to promote a better appreciation of the rich history that has created Singapore's multi-ethnic society. The museum regularly presents special exhibitions that expand on the themes of the museum, and these often showcase magnificent objects borrowed from museums and institutions around the world. The Asian Civilisations Museum is a winner of the TripAdvisor Traveller's Choice Award for Museums for 2014 and 2015.
The Museum was the only Singapore museum ranked among Asia’s top 10 museums. The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is an institution which forms a part of the four museums in Singapore, the other three being the Peranakan Museum at Old Tao Nan School, the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum. By exploring Asia’s artistic heritage, the Asian Civilisations Museum fosters understanding of the diverse heritage cultures of Singapore, their interconnections, and their connections with the world. The Asian Civilisations Museum was set up in 1993 under the auspices of the National Heritage Board as one of three National Museums, along with the Singapore History Museum (later renamed the National Museum) and the Singapore Art Museum. The idea was to divide the National Collection along the lines of Singapore history, art, and ethnology.
The ACM’s collection began with objects from the colonial Raffles Library and Museum. The major part was ethnological materials collected in Southeast Asia – examples of the crafts, tools, weapons, utensils, and costume of the Malay and other indigenous Southeast Asian cultures. There was also a small collection of Chinese objects. Collections in new areas were started in the 1990s – West Asia/the Islamic world, and South Asia – so that the ACM could fulfill its mission to highlight the roots of Singapore’s different ethnic groups in the various cultures and civilisations of Asia. The ACM collection continues to grow through acquisitions, donations, and loans from organisations and private individuals. The collection is now one of the most comprehensive in the region.
It is one of the pioneering museums in the region to specialise in pan-Asian cultures and civilisations. The museum specialises in the material history of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia, from which the diverse ethnic groups of Singapore trace their ancestry. The museum first opened at the Old Tao Nan School building on 22 April 1997 at Armenian Street, with exhibits largely centred on Chinese civilisation. With the restoration of the Empress Place Building, the museum established its new flagship museum there on 2 March 2003, rapidly expanding the collection to other areas of Asia. The Armenian Street branch closed for renovations on 1 January 2006 and reopened on 25 April 2008 as the Peranakan Museum, specialising in Peranakan culture.
On September 16, 2006, the Museum officially launched its new logo with a new slogan The Asian Civilisations Museum — Where Asian Cultures Come Alive! This new logo reflects the museum's unique location by the historic Singapore River, the source and origin of Singapore multicultural society, which the ACM presents in its collection. The brown reflected image also alludes to the museum as a place for reflection, while the vibrant orange is an invigorating colour which represents activity and energy.
On 25 April 2008, the Peranakan Museum was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Operated and managed by the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Peranakan Museum explores the culture of hybrid communities in the former Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca, and Penang, and their links with other communities in Southeast Asia. The Armenian Street ACM building had closed at the end of 2005, and, because of the immense popularity of the Peranakan displays in the old ACM, was redeveloped into a brand new Peranakan Museum. In late 2013, after undergoing a rebranding exercise, the Museum launched its new logo with a new slogan Singapore's Museum of Asia.
On 15 November 2015, the Museum unveiled its new spaces after it started its revamp in 2014. The revamp is carried out in phases: Phase 1 was unveiled on 14 November 2015. Phase 2 was completed in April 2016, with further enhancements to follow. The Chinese collection is represented by fine Dehua porcelain figures, Taoist and Buddhistic statuary, export porcelain, calligraphy and other examples of decorative art. The South Asian Galleries feature statuary from a broad spectrum of periods including some fine Chola bronzes. Of particularly note is the Chola bronze sculpture of Uma, the consort of Shiva and that of Somaskanda.
The early Buddhist art of India is also represented by works hailing from the Mathura and Gandhara schools, including a rare sandstone Mathura Buddha dating to the Kanishka era, and the head of a Gandharan Bodhisattva. Other areas of note include South Indian woodwork, Nepali-Tibetan bronzes, textiles, late medieval miniatures and colonial prints. The Southeast Asian collections are broad in scope and are rich in ethnological material. Representing the aristocratic art of ancient Southeast Asia are Khmer sculptures, Javanese temple sculpture (some on loan from Leiden), later Buddhist art from Burma/Thailand and the Sinicised temple art of Vietnam. Peranakan gold, textiles, tribal ornament and theatrical masks are other strengths of the collection..
Certain gallery rooms are also used for temporary exhibitions. A recent exhibition included the display of the spectacular Bronze Age masks from Sanxingdui, Sichuan Province, China. The museum has a restaurant, Empress, featuring traditional Chinese dishes in a contemporary setting, and a cafe, Privé ACM, offering all day dining. There are ballrooms and halls available for functions. The museum shop has souvenirs and a wide range of books on Asian art. At the 2014 Committee of Supply Debate, it was announced that a $65 million package was to be dedicated to enhancing Singapore museums and cultural institutions. About $35 million was used to fund major revamps of the National Museum of Singapore and the Asian Civilisations Museum as part of Singapore’s 50th-anniversary celebrations this year.
In the third quarter of 2014, the ACM embarked on a comprehensive renewal of the museum, which includes new construction and reimagined galleries that will display objects in new ways. The expanded and refreshed galleries will enhance visitor experience and better share Singapore’s Asian heritage through the historical connections between cultures. The new galleries at the ACM use Singapore’s history as a port city as a means of understanding the interconnections between Asian cultures, and between Asia and the world. The new and refreshed permanent galleries will be arranged along broad themes highlighting cross-cultural connections, rather than segmented by geography or cultures.
1 Empress Place, Singapore
+65 6332 7798
10.00 - 19.00
Friday 10.00 - 21.00