We all know City Hall as an MRT station and the bridge between the ‘red’ and ‘green’ train lines, but the ‘real’ City Hall is actually a three minute walk away, at National Gallery Singapore.

Unbeknownst to some, City Hall was once known as the Municipal Building, and provided the backdrop for many significant—yet sometimes lesser-known—moments in Singapore’s history. For example, did you know that it was on the steps of City Hall that the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew recited the Proclamation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963?

In conjunction with the Singapore Bicentennial, National Gallery Singapore has launched a new exhibition that opens the window to these lesser known stories, taking you on an immersive multimedia experience where you will get to witness these moments come to life.

Free for Singaporeans and PRs, this exhibition marks the first time that National Gallery Singapore is hosting a long-term exhibition within the City Hall Chamber.

Embark On A Historical Journey With ‘Encik Awang’

Begin your experience with ‘Encik Awang’, a character inspired by a real-life caretaker, who will guide you through key events that happened in and around the City Hall building. Before that however, have your photos taken at the photobooth and download them via a QR code. You’ll also be in for a surprise as these photos will be incorporated into a part of the show!

Embark on a journey through time to learn about the origins of the building, its name, and the other stories within the building’s walls.

Go on a multisensorial historical journey through these interactive panels
Image Credit: National Gallery Singapore

The 20-minute multimedia show will immerse you in these stories through several interactive elements, like diffusing the smoke caused by a Japanese air raid during the war.

The City Hall building served as a bomb shelter during the Japanese occupation. The City Hall chamber is also where the Japanese surrender took place.
Image Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Besides the evolving roles of the building, you will also learn about some lesser-known trades like lamplighters. Overseen by the Municipal Council, they climbed up lamp posts daily to illuminate the streets which were lined with gas-powered lamps.

Muse Over Our History And Culture At The Social Wall

After bidding goodbye to Encik Awang, head on over to Singapore Courtyard at level 3 of the City Hall building, where you’ll get to deepen your understanding of Singapore’s past through art at the Social Wall, a life-sized multi-touch interactive screen.

The Social Wall at level 3 of the City Hall building is made out of twelve 55-inch panels
Image Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Here, you can choose from curated themes like Portraits of Lives, Architecture and Stories, Conflicts and Concerns, War and Adversity, Places and Inspirations, and Changing Landscapes, which will present you with a selection of artworks that inspire you to think about the historical and cultural contexts of their creation. 

There’s also a ‘Surprise Me!’ function to personalise your experience, which will create a journey based on your profile.

You can even go on a hunt for the original artworks presented on the Social Wall! Download a digital map via the QR code on the Social Wall, which will lead you to the pieces displayed in the exhibits at Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore since the 19th Century.

The artwork on the left is one of the artworks you will find on the hunt.
Image Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Immerse Yourself In The Unique Stories At The Memories Of City Hall

After celebrating the history of City Hall and the events surrounding the building, get a different perspective of history through the lenses of people who used to walk the hallways of this grand monument at the Memories of City Hall. The personal stories of these people who have played an important role in the building’s history makes for a great way to wrap up your experience. 

Located at Singapore Courtyard at level 2 of the City Hall, the exhibition completes the City Hall story with a selection of oral history interviews and archives of unique stories and memories of people who were based in City Hall from the 1960s to 1980s. These include stories of former civil servants in the early days of Singapore’s independence.

You can also download the Gallery Explorer App to read more about the compelling stories relating to key moments in Singapore’s history, such as the unveiling of Singapore’s State Crest and National Flag, and the first public performance of the national anthem.

Celebrate City Hall’s Rich History

Image Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Whether you’re a history or art buff, or simply looking for an exhibition to check out, City Hall: If Walls Could Talk will be an engaging journey of discovery, and will surprise you with little known facts about a majestic building that we are visually familiar with. 

Check out City Hall: If Walls Could Talk from 1 September 2019 at the 3rd floor, City Hall Chamber, National Gallery Singapore. 

General admission applies to the exhibition (free for Singaporeans and PRs). For more information, visit www.nationalgallery.sg/cityhall! 

This article is written in collaboration with National Gallery Singapore.

Header Image Credit: National Gallery Singapore

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