Museums as Temples of Cultures or Palaces of Entertainment? A Study of New Museums in Singapore

By Yunci Cai.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Museums worldwide are transforming themselves into modern centres of entertainment, replacing their dusty old halls with bigger, more dazzling exhibition spaces, classy restaurants and shops, as well as inviting public spaces. To make museums more appealing and accessible, museums are adopting interactive technologies and organising blockbusters. The educational and social functions of museums are becoming more intricately intertwined with commerce and entertainment. The scholarly institution traditionally preoccupied with collection, display and research has taken on a new role today. As museums transform themselves from ‘temples of cultures’ to modern ‘palaces of entertainment’, the roles of new museums require critical scrutiny. This paper argues that the new stances of museums in the new millennium are a reflection of their constant adaptation to new demands of societies. In adopting edutainment and organising interesting programmes relevant to history and culture, museums engage their communities in the process of making history, which in turn, enhance the relevance of museums in their everyday lives. Museum collections are crossing borders, brought about by rapid globalisation and technological changes. These blockbusters expose local communities to other cultures, broadening their horizons and perspectives of the world. By engendering greater community participation through edutainment, entertainment and exhibition exchanges, museums inculcate values of social integration, thus bonding diverse communities. The objectives of this paper are threefold. Theoretically, it builds upon the conceptualisation of New Museology by considering recent developments in the museum world. Conceptually, the paper puts forth the ‘Cycle of Internalisation’ to explicate the complex linkages between museum processes and social inclusiveness. Empirically, it examines the challenges of adopting new museum practices based on the experience of national museums in Singapore. The paper concludes with recommendations for new museums.

Keywords: Museums, New Museology, Social Relevance, Singapore

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.73-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.833MB).

Yunci Cai

Assistant Manager (Policy and Research), Corporate Services and Planning Division, National Heritage Board of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

Cai Yunci graduated with a First Class Honours in Geography from the National University of Singapore (NUS). Upon graduation, she was designated a University Scholar and was placed on Vice-Chancellor’s List for outstanding intellectual and leadership achievements. Yunci has a very deep interest in heritage and culture, and has embarked on many research projects on heritage and museological issues. She is currently an Assistant Manager (Policy and Research) with the National Heritage Board (NHB) of Singapore, the national agency operating national museums and overseeing the cultural and heritage policies in Singapore. Her key portfolio involves studying trends of museum developments overseas and making policy recommendations to improve Singapore’s heritage and museum scene.


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