Having started my training to become a tour guide (Docent) at the Asian Civilisations Museum almost a month ago it feels like a good time to mention what I have been up to. Each week generally consists of a number of readings to be done at home, Tuesday morning lectures and Fridays where we spend time in the Museum galleries learning from existing docents and practicing out weekly words. The weekly words are a combination or artefacts (physical items in the museum) or concept words (e.g. Monsoon). Each of the 3 is studied and facts collected before writing a 2 minute summary which we should attempt to commit to memory. Later we will take these 2 minute summaries and combine them into a 1 hour tour.
There is no way to tell you everything I am learning, that will have to wait for a guided tour but I can start at the beginning, with the Asian Civilisations Museum, or ACM as we call it. The museum itself was built in 1864-65 as government offices and a courthouse. The building also stored the countries coinage and the old vault door can still be seen incorporated into the gallery today. After the death of queen Victoria (Empress of India) the building was renamed Empress Place.
The building was first used as a museum in 1989 when it opened as the Empress Place Museum. Unfortunately it didn’t survive and closed due to financial difficulties in 1995. At the same time however the Asian Civilisations Museum was being born when the newly appointed minister of Information and Arts decided to divide up the National Museum.
He wanted a museum that helped multi-cultural Singapore continue to grow by understanding the culture that had influenced its past and present. Although the Asian Civilization Museum opened in other premises in 1997 it always had its eye on Empress Place. Its strategic location by the river, which drew in multi-cultural trade, was symbolic to the museums existence in the first place.
From 1998 to 2003 the building underwent large scale renovation during which time every single piece of wood was replaced due to infestation. It finally opened its doors as the Asian Civilisation Museum in 2003.
Today the ACM is thriving and in 2014 it won the Trip Adviser Travelers Choice award.
To reach the museum I cross the lovely old Cavenagh Bridge, today it is for pedestrians only but the old sign warns about the use by horses and cattle.