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Overseas Visitors Impressed with Singapore’s Museums

Overseas Visitors Impressed with Singapore’s Museums
November 3, 2009

Attendances at Singapore’s museums rose by 26% in 2008 with 6.5 million attendances including close to a million overseas visitors.

A survey conducted by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on visitor demographics and perceptions of selected institutions found that seven out of 10 respondents were impressed with the wide range of museums in the city state.

The inaugural survey of Museum Roundtable (MR) institutions, a grouping of over 50 local museums in Singapore, also found that museum-goers were also impressed with the high curatorial standards, which they said were comparable to top museums overseas.

The NHB/STB survey also revealed that 37% of museum-goers in Singapore were from overseas, with numbers expected to grow as a result of the STB’s planned increases in its international marketing in the coming years.

It was found that some two-thirds of the tourists polled said they would give museums a go if they were given sufficient information to include them as part of their itinerary before arriving in Singapore.

The survey found that 11% of overseas visitors are repeat museum-goers. Of the tourists, Britons constituted the bulk of museum visitors followed by Australians, Americans, Indians and Filipinos. Most were aged 25 years and above and 59% of the tourists were women.

As Jeannie Lim, Director of Attractions at the Singapore Tourism Board explains, “museums mirror the growth of our city and present to the world various perspectives of the Singapore story … the number of overseas visitors to museums has shown an encouraging increase over the past years.

“Of the ten million tourists who came to Singapore last year, close to one million visited our national museums.

“This year, special promotions such as The Great Singapore Pass™ and the NHB Three-Day Museum Pass, have increased awareness and made museums even more accessible to tourists and locals.”

Singapore showcases a diversity of museums, with a focus ranging from arts and culture to science and healthcare.

The iconic National Museum of Singapore topped the list of the most visited museum here with 871,800 visitors in 2008. The other four most visited museums according to figures from MR members were the National Library Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum, Images of Singapore and Singapore Art Museum. Some boutique museums also made the top 20 list including The Changi Museum, dedicated to the soldiers who fought in Singapore during World War II, and The MINT Museum of Toys, the world’s first purpose-built toy museum.

Summing up the views of many tourists, American resident, Sandra Simmons explains “I love the museums in Singapore, I was surprised by their range and the depth of focus. It was a simply lovely experience.”

NHB has positioned museums in Singapore as a cultural gateway to Asia with unique regional perspective of the region’s diverse cultures. NHB’s Chief Executive Michael Koh said that annual ASEAN-themed celebrations held in Singapore, such as the Vietnam Festival in 2008 and Philippines Fiesta this year are aimed at widening the outlook of museum-goers and offer a taste of different cultures and experiences across Asia.

As part of NHB’s efforts to showcase world class exhibitions here and to stage Singapore-curated shows overseas, the Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Réunion des Musées Nationaux in Paris in January 2009 – intensifying cultural cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.

In 2010/11, Asian Civilisations Museum’s Peranakan treasures will be on show in France in a traveling exhibition entitled Between Multiple Worlds – The Chinese Peranakans of Southeast Asia. This is the first time, Musée du quai Branly, a national museum of France with a world-renowned collection of artefacts from the non-western cultures of the world, is presenting such a showcase of the Peranakan culture.

“We believe that our museums have attained a certain level of reputation in terms of quality,” explained Koh, adding “a prime example is the recent donation by Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong to the Singapore Art Museum. Worth $73.7 million, this was the biggest donation our museums have received. Deciding to entrust his art works with our museums shows his faith in our dedication to preserve his collection for generations to come and to showcase it to the world.”

Alissandra Cummins, President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) during her recent visit to Singapore, had the opportunity to visit a number of museums here and remarked that “I am positively impressed by the high quality, intriguing and accessible content and professional design of Singapore’s museum galleries. The exhibits I encountered during my trip have more than met international standards of practice."

Image courtesy of National Museum of Singapore.

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