REVIEW: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore

This is a long overdue review of the beautiful Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in Singapore. This recently opened museum probably deserves more than this short review; it is very rich and interesting in terms of design and art direction. But hopefully these few words and pictures will make you feel like checking it out for yourselves. I promise it’s worth it!

I went on a weekend and didn’t know I had to book online to make sure I get a spot, but fortunately that wasn’t an issue and I was able to get in. I think the museum adopted this session policy to control the amount of people in the museum and make sure the experience is always at its best. Since the museum is a bit far from anything (inside the National University of Singapore campus), they wouldn’t want to have to turn people away, which explains the pre-booking.

At an admission price of S$21 for foreigners (S$16 for Singapore residents), the museum is on par with other similar institutions in Singapore (the new National Gallery is charging $20 for foreigners) but surprisingly not free for local residents, which is the case of all museums owned by the National Heritage Board.

On the overall visitor experience I would say it was very pleasant and fulfilling. Although the space is not that big (only 2,000sqm), it is very rich and I stayed for a good hour and a half. The visitor mix was good: some families with kids, a few Chinese tourists and non-Asian tourists; maybe around 60pax visiting at the same time, just the right amount.

The overall design by gsmprjct is very bright and flows very well. Half of the museum is over 2 stories with high ceilings and the other half houses a mezzanine where the exhibits continue.

Here are a few of my visit’s highlights:

  • Great intimate videos produced by scientists from the National University of Singapore, which are consumed a bit like youtube content
  • The ‘cabinet of curiosity’ installation on the mezzanine, which is a living history of the Raffles Museum and tells visitors how the collection on display was put together
  • Feature wall covered floor-to-ceiling with glass jars; it could be an art installation
  • Live animal tanks (scorpion, murk fish, phasmids), which make for good talking points (and distraction) for kids
  • Dinosaur light & sound show in the central high-ceiling area, which makes for a little pause in the visit

The selection of specimens is very relevant with interesting links to Singapore and its history and a focus on small living organisms rather than big mammals, which works well in a small space. The message is very clear, raising awareness about our environment and the need to protect it. The only small negative is the texts tend to be a bit too lengthy and complicated; they lost me a few times. I guess this is what happens when research scientists are involved in building a museum!

Now for those who read this review until the end I urge you to go; this museum is a must-visit for anyone involved in designing and/or building visitor attractions.

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