Home, Truly - Growing Up With Singapore, 1950s to the Present

Explore and reflect on what makes Singapore our home at the National Museum’s latest exhibition

  • 10:44 AM, 17 Dec, 2020

An exhibition with people at its centre, with stories presented through the voices of people, and aspects of the exhibition created together with different community partners.

Singapore, 15 December 2020 – In collaboration with The Straits Times, the National Museum of Singapore presents Home, Truly: Growing Up with Singapore, 1950s to the Present, in conjunction with the newspaper’s 175th anniversary. Featuring photographs and artefacts, including those contributed by members of the public, as well as audio-visual footage, sounds, scents and special digital features, Home, Truly explores the moments and experiences in Singapore’s past and present that express our identity and collective memory as a people.

Presenting “home” through the voices of people In conceptualising the exhibition, the museum sought feedback from, and worked closely with, different audience groups such as youths and seniors to bring to light rich personal stories of living and growing up in Singapore. Input from seven in-depth engagement sessions with over 100 unique participants was considered for different aspects of the exhibition – from surfacing memories and stories for display within Home, Truly, to how the exhibition itself was presented. Selected photographs and stories contributed by members of the public through the Home, Truly open call held earlier this year are also featured in the exhibition and the exhibition’s catalogue of the same title.

Through five key themes and using the metaphor of a home, Home, Truly is presented in an intimate way that invites visitors to see themselves in the stories presented. It also adopts a personal and contemplative tone to encourage visitors to reflect on what Singapore means to them as their home, and their hopes for the home we aspire to be.

On display at Home, Truly are over 80 objects from the National Collection that showcase the lived experiences of our people, over 200 photographs on physical and digital platforms, of which a quarter came from community contributions. 

1. Laying The Foundations explores how nation-building looked and felt like to people on the ground, through the laying down of foundational policies in areas such as housing, economy, defence, healthcare, and infrastructure. Hear the personal accounts of people who lived through the country’s early years as an independent nation, through the events they witnessed or the rites of passage they experienced. 

Some of these vivid, first-hand accounts were of moving into a HDB flat for the first time, and from women who entered the workforce during the height of Singapore’s rapid industrialisation. These stories were captured by youths from secondary schools and tertiary institutions, as part of the museum’s Student Archivist Project 2020. This section also features a specially commissioned soundscape, A Day in the Life of Singapore, which comprises the distinctive sounds of people, places and experiences that are characteristic of Singapore.

2. Moving In features some of the common experiences and memories that breathe life and meaning into a nation, and make a house a home, such as going to school, enjoying our hawker food, or relaxing in recreational spaces. In this section, visitors are invited to step into immersive spaces that take them back to the comforting moments of celebrating festivities in their living room, or lounging by a jukebox featuring distinctively Singaporean songs, both old and new, that have been part of the soundtrack to our years of living and growing up in Singapore. This section also features “Let’s Talk at the Tuckshop”, one of three chat corners within the exhibition, designed to encourage reflection and conversation across generations based on what visitors have seen in the exhibition. 

3. Living Together examines how Singaporeans have worked together to navigate and overcome challenges faced when living together in a shared space, as people settle into a new home. From national campaigns to the clean-up of the Singapore River, to tensions that may arise between communities from time to time, this section also shows have Singaporeans have made an effort to shape and build our home through constructive dialogue and meaningful initiatives.  

4. Open Doors takes a look at how Singapore has been shaped by its immigrant and multicultural past through the stories of different groups of people who have made Singapore their home over the years, and their reflections on what home means to them. Hear the intimate stories captured through video interviews in a space designed to evoke a typical HDB void deck, reminiscent of afternoons spent chatting with friends and neighbours.  

5. Sturdy through Storms presents how Singapore has stood united in support and courage through the crises that challenges we have faced over the decades such as floods, the withdrawal of the British military, financial crises and SARS. This section also includes a special feature on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with a display of artistic works, photos and artefacts, including contributions from the National Museum’s Collecting Contemporary Singapore: Documenting COVID-19 in Singapore Open Call. 

Home, Truly concludes with a space for reflection that invites visitors to contribute to a live collective response on what “home” means to us by writing or drawing on a response card, and seeing it projected on a screen. Visitors may also choose to respond via a special recording device designed for the visually-impaired. 

Director of the National Museum of Singapore, Ms Chung May Khuen says: “With Home, Truly, the National Museum seeks to explore collective moments and experiences that are unique to growing up and living in Singapore. We’ve had several conversations with individuals from different segments of the community – including youths, seniors, and individuals who are visually-impaired – which have helped us to conceptualise an exhibition that truly resonates with our diverse audiences. We would like to continue the dialogue on what home means to people in Singapore, whether in the past or today, providing them with an opportunity to reflect and engage in conversation on the home we aspire to be. It is also our hope that the digital initiatives we are piloting in the gallery and online for Home, Truly will help pave the way for more immersive and accessible experiences by the National Museum.” 

Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times, Mr Warren Fernandez says: “The Straits Times has been telling the story of Singapore for 175 years, including its transition from colony to independence to a sense of being identified as our own home. We have captured these in stories but also in visuals - photos, and now also increasingly on video. This showcase features highlights of these efforts over the years, and will be both nostalgic, as well as stirring and inspiring.”

Engaging visitors safely in the new normal

To help visitors interact and engage safely with the exhibition in the “new normal”, each visitor to Home, Truly will be given a stylus pen with a Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) tag. A “mediated touch” solution in light of COVID-19 considerations, the stylus tip of the pens enable visitors to interact with multimedia stations without having to touch the screens, and the pens enable visitors to write down their reflections in response to the exhibition’s chat corners and final interactive. Visitors can use the RFID tag to tap on and respond to prompts within the exhibition, and upon “checking out” at the end of the exhibition, they can find out more about what home means to them based on their responses. They will also receive a specially curated list of digital content based on their personal journey throughout the exhibition. Visitors may also bring home their RFID-tagged stylus pen and reuse it on subsequent visits to the Home, Truly exhibition. Motion sensors have also been used as a way to trigger video and audio content in certain sections of the gallery.

Exploring accessibility initiatives for visually-impaired visitors

As a people’s museum, the National Museum is always seeking new ways to improve the museum experience for all of its visitors. In conceptualising the exhibition, the curators met and engaged with members from the visually-impaired community to better understand how visually-impaired visitors may also experience the exhibition meaningfully, in addition to identifying important non-visual aspects of Singapore as our home. Home, Truly will offer a pilot experience for visually-impaired visitors through the use of sounds and scents. The experience will be further enhanced with a new smart cane prototype, which provides visitors with navigation instructions and a customised descriptive audio tour to help them better explore the exhibition. This feature is the first of its kind to be featured in a National Heritage Board institution, and is supported by Temasek Foundation Cares. The pilot smart cane experience was developed jointly with Nanyang Polytechnic and Guide Dogs Singapore, and will continue to be refined with feedback from users over the course of the exhibition, to enable this potential solution to be expanded to other galleries within the museum. This experience will be available to visually-impaired from January 2021, and will be supported by the museum’s volunteers including our Care Facilitators who are trained to facilitate and support the museum’s access programmes. More details will be shared on the Museum’s website and social media platforms.

Education-related features

The Ministry of Education’s School Histories Online Repository, which seeks to capture the histories of Singapore schools, will ride on the opening of Home, Truly to make the Repository available to the public. Visitors can access the Repository by scanning a QR code in the exhibition. The Repository allows Singaporeans to search for a school and view information on the school’s history, motto, song, and more. The Repository is a “live” and ongoing project, where the public can contribute information and relevant school histories resources on more schools over time. The National Museum also worked with the Academy of Singapore Teachers to put together a special educational resource – Home, Truly Investigator’s Journal – for students aged 13 and above. The Journal adopts an inquiry-based approach and allows students to gain a better understanding of the historical context that framed the formation of our national identity and citizenship. 

@ Home, Truly: Digital Companion to Home, Truly 

The exhibition is complemented by a digital companion to the exhibition, @ Home, Truly, that was launched in August 2020. @ Home, Truly features an online-exclusive story of a young girl and her grandfather through illustrations by different local artists, interspersed with archival and contemporary images, artefacts and audio-visual material. The experience includes a chatbot offering games and quizzes. The digital story is released in chapters – each highlights a theme related to the physical exhibition – with three released so far, and more to come, with the fourth being released on 18 December 2020.  

Exhibition programmes To enhance and deepen visitors’ understanding of the themes of the exhibition, a variety of resources and programmes will be made available onsite and digitally. These include a crossword puzzle hunt for families; the My Photo Scrapbook booklet which invites families to take a closer look at the artefacts; behind-the-scenes curator tours, sharing sessions by photographers and personalities featured in the exhibition, and academic talks; as well as dialogue sessions that touch on contemporary issues of Singapore as our home. Visitors may also bring home a copy of the exhibition catalogue, which features curatorial perspectives and a closer look at selected photographs, artefacts and oral histories, and is available for purchase at the Museum Label store. The exhibition will run from 19 December 2020 – 29 August 2021. For more information, please visit https://go.gov.sg/hometrulynms for the latest updates on the exhibition.

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