The Peranakan Museum Singapore is finally reopening its doors after 4 years of renovation! The newly renovated museum on Armenian Street highlights the rich diversity of Peranakan culture and communities, including those of Arab Peranakans, Chinese Peranakans, Chitty Melakans (or Peranakan Indians), Eurasian Peranakans, and Jawi Peranakans.
If you’ve always been curious about ‘What is Peranakan?’, this museum, which has nine galleries, that span three levels, and is home to exquisite objects, interviews, stories, and current expressions, will answer that question for you! As you wander and explore, you can expect to dive deeper into rediscovering the many cultural roots of ‘Peranakan’ and how it’s still evolving today.
First Level: Origin
The first level is where you’ll find various origins and evolution of Peranakan communities. As you walk through the exhibition, you’ll first see objects that are displayed to highlight the richness of the culture across the Malay-Indonesian world.
1. Interactive Map
While you’re there, be sure to try your hands at the interactive map where you can educate yourself about the different Peranakan communities! Your kids are sure to have a bunch of fun with this interactive map.
2. Past and Current Portraits of Peranakans
As you move forward, you can view the pictures of past and current Peranakans that were provided by various Peranakan communities, illustrating the diversity and wealth of the Peranakan cultural heritage. These portraits range from hand-colored images to photo walls. Don’t forget to stop and watch the inspiring video interviews in which respondents discuss what being Peranakan means to them.
Second Level: Home
Once you’ve done exploring and educating yourself on the roots of Peranakan culture, you can head up to the second level where you’ll find yourself thrown back into the past with the antique home decor!
There comes a saying that an interior is a natural projection of the soul. This can be put into context when you step into the Home exhibition! The second floor's gallery display items from family and communal life, showcasing a variety of Peranakan practices, food, languages, and beliefs.
The newly combined galleries at the renovated museum bring together furniture, pictures, and other items that were formerly part of the same household. The displays emphasize historic homes and architecture, some of which have been demolished but are still represented by the displayed items.
3. Pintu Pagar
As soon as you step in, you’ll be awed by the large, unique pintu pagar (Outer gates), which is a half-height outer door common in traditional Peranakan houses to provide ventilation, privacy, and security when the front door is opened during the day.
4. Lavender Chang Art Installations
You can also spot portraits, an art installation called Sheltered Dreams by Singaporean artist, Lavender Chang, depicting everyday life at home by showcasing living rooms in HDB homes as the residents slept.
5. Tok Panjang Dining Table
Moving on to the next room, you can find a devoted gallery filled with ceramics that offers a novel perspective on the Peranakan's use of ceramics and their varied culinary culture. Right in the middle, you can see the installation of tok panjang, a traditional Chinese-Peranakan style long dining table with a complex outlay of 16 commissioned dining ware!
6. Traditional Nyonyaware
When you venture inwards, you can see a floor-to-ceiling display of some of the best and rarest examples of Peranakan 'nyonyaware', ranging from contemporary expressions to traditional pieces!
Before heading to the third floor, catch sight of the Radiogram which is a combination of a radio and record player! Additionally, you can also take a quick look at the Panton Dondang Sayang Baba Pranakan on display which contains three volumes of the pantun for dondang sayang stories.
Level Three: Style
7. Beautiful Batik Textiles
As you step in, you’ll be faced with colourful and beautifully designed batik displayed as objects and furnishings. While you’re there, try to keep an eye out for the beautifully designed rug that highlights the iconic fairytale of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs! If you’re on a family trip to the Peranakan Museum, don’t miss the ‘Anak Anak’ prompts plastered on the walls which can help your kids to interact and engage in conversation!
8. Bridal Bed
Did you know that many Peranakan pieces are made by hand? The next room will highlight the craftsmanship of the Peranakan needlework where most are made by nyonyas themselves! Right in the middle, you’ll be amazed to see the beautiful Peranakan Chinese bridal bed that’s decorated with beadwork and embroidery. There’s even an exploration zone where families with kids can colour and engage in an Activity Trail book!
9. Traditional Kebayas
As you step into the next room, you may feel as though you’ve stepped into a boutique with a wide spectrum of jewelry and fashion displayed all around you! You can find a variety of fashion that’s beyond the traditional sarong kebaya, including menswear, footwear, and accessories. Collectively, they demonstrate how Peranakan clothing is varied, represents a variety of influences, and has changed over time.
10. Kebaya Worn By Ivan Heng for production of Stella Kon's Emily of Emerald Hill
While you’re there, be sure to look out for some of the unique cheongsams worn by iconic people like the sarong kebaya worn by Ivan Heng for a Wild Rice 2019 production of Stella Kon's Emily of Emerald Hill!
11. Jewelled Relics
As you venture forward, you can find around 180 pieces of jewelry on display in the new jewelry gallery that’s displayed in chronological order! The order shows the change in response to shifting dress trends and hybrid influences as well as spans the various life stages and events. Some of the jewelled relics on show are the Chitty Melakan addigai necklace, a set of jewelry from one of the oldest Chinese Peranakan families in Sulawesi, and an Arab Peranakan hairpin, so keep an eye out for them!
12. Bonus: Contemporary Expressions
While exploring the museum, you may have seen the beautifully-designed lanterns in the museum’s central stairwell. The art installation by Sam Lo is inspired by the conflict between tradition and modernity in Peranakan society. This art installation, alongside Sheltered Dreams by Lavender Chang, is meant to evoke feelings of pride and unity in the community.
13. Bonus: Peranakan Museum x SUNS
Before you leave, why not stop by the Peranakan Museum X SUNS store? You can find one-of-a-kind artisanal goods, including fine porcelain and jewelry inspired by the Peranakan Museum collection, available for purchase on the first floor!
The designated retail space is part of the initiative to support design and craftsmanship from Singapore and the region. The museum will start a trial project with the modern brand SUNS Singapore as a continuation of its relationships with its creative communities and industry.
Before you go, you should not miss out on the special edition Armenian Street Party: Peranakan Museum Reopens! This event will showcase a full weekend of outdoor performances, workshops, food, beverages, and even free admission to the museum. The event will start from 17 to 19 February 2023, so don’t miss out on this fun and special event!
Address: 39 Armenian St, Singapore 179941
Opening hours: 10am-9pm