The Asian Civilisations Museum
is one of the three museums belonging to the National Museums of Singapore. It specialises in pan-Asian cultures and civilisations. As it traces the history of Singapore and its heritage, the Asian Civilisations Museum draws from the material history of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia, places that have contributed to Singapore's cosmopolitan population.
The Asian Civilisations museum was first opened on 22 April 1997, housed at the Old Tao Nan School building. At that time its exhibits centered mostly on the Chinese civilisation. When Empress Place Building building was restored, the museum moved its main branch there on 2 March 2003. This allows it to expand its collection to cover other areas in Asia. The branch housed at the Old Tao Nan School building, now known as the Armenian Street branch, closes for renovation. When it reopens - scheduled for 2008 - it will become the Peranakan Museum.
Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress Place, Singapore
The Empress Place Building, which today houses the Asian Civilisations Museum, was originally intended to be a courthouse, but was instead used as government offices (and was so called, Government Offices). It was constructed between 1864 and 1920, in four phases. The original section, which is closest to the Old Parliament House, was designed by J.F.A. McNair using convict labour, between 1864 and 1867. As the colonial administration grew, more office space was needed, and so the Government Offices building extended. The wing close to the Singapore River completed in 1875, and was used as courthouse from 1875 until 1939, when the (old) Supreme Court Building was completed.
In 1854, a new Town Hall was built, and completed in 1862. The Town Hall building today houses the Victoria Theatre.
The space in front of the building was named Empress Place in 1907, in honour of the late Queen Victoria. The Government Office became associated with the Empress Place, and consequently took its name, becoming the Empress Place Building.
As more administrative space is required, the Government Offices building continues to expand, with extensions added in 1880, 1904-1909 and 1920. The Empress Place Building continued to serve as the government offices right up to the late 1980, and was best remembered as the Registry of Births and Deaths, the Citizenship Registry and the Immigration Department. Plans to turn it into a museum was afoot from the late 1980s.
After extensive renovation, the Empress Place Museum was opened on 7 April 1989. From the start, the museum was plagued with all sorts of structural and logistical problems, until eventually it closed down on 30 April 1995. It then underwent another round of renovations and was eventually reopened, this time as the second wing of the Asian Civilisations Museum on 2 March 2002 to house Southeast, South and West Asian artefacts.
The Asian Civilisations Museum building was gazetted as a National Monument of Singapore on 14 February 1992.
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