Produced by SilverKris for Asian Civilisations Museum
Housed in a neoclassical-style building along the Singapore River, the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) celebrates the rich artistic heritage of Asia through its wide-ranging collection of Asian antiquities and decorative art.
As the only museum in Asia with a pan-Asian scope, ACM’s vast collection spans the breadth of the continent – from the opulent artefacts of China’s Ming Dynasty to the intricate carvings of ancient Southeast Asian cultures. ACM’s approach is not just about displaying historical relics; it’s about weaving narratives that highlight the interconnectedness of Asian societies, with an emphasis on the cultural exchanges that have shaped the world as we know it.
Manila Galleon: A glimpse into transcontinental trade
One of the most anticipated exhibitions at the ACM, “Manila Galleon: From Asia to the Americas,” transports visitors back to a time when ships laden with treasures sailed across the vast Pacific Ocean.
This exhibition, running from 16 November 2023 to 17 March 2024, delves into the historic trade route that linked Asia to the Americas and Europe. Through over 140 extraordinary works of art dating from the 16th to the 20th century, visitors are invited to explore the intricate web of commerce, culture and ideas that flourished between Manila and Mexico City.
The exhibition provides a unique perspective on Singapore’s own history, drawing parallels between Manila’s role as a precursor to Singapore and emphasising the importance of port cities as hubs of cultural exchange. By revealing the shared cultural and artistic heritage shaped by people, goods and ideas circulating through global port cities, “Manila Galleon” highlights the diversity and interconnectedness that define our world.
Besides special exhibitions like the one above, ACM is home to three floors of permanent galleries that focus on maritime trade, faith and beliefs, as well as decorative art.
Start your journey on the ground floor where you are immersed in the bustling marketplaces and ports of ancient Asia. The galleries tell the tale of more than a thousand years of maritime trade within Asia and between Asia and the rest of the world. A highlight here is the Tang Shipwreck, where you can admire more than a thousand pieces of sunken treasure found in a ship that was wrecked over a millennia ago.
The galleries on the second floor transport visitors back to the roots of Asian spirituality, showcasing artefacts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and other ancient faiths. Intricately carved deities, centuries-old manuscripts and ritual objects narrate the spiritual odyssey of the continent. Keep a lookout for the remarkably intricate Buddhist relief panel that dates back to the 3rd or 4th century as well as the striking ornament for a processional palanquin from Kelantan.
On the third floor, the focus is on decorative art and the exhibits here pay homage to the Asian aesthetic and craftsmanship. From delicate porcelain to vibrant textiles, learn more about the mastery of materials and techniques that have been passed down through generations, shaping the region’s artistic landscape. The gallery is currently playing host to a special exhibition in the Fashion and Textiles Gallery titled “Textile Masters to the World: The global desire for Indian Cloth”, which spotlights the historic global impact of textile production in India.
Enjoy ACM from anywhere in the world
If you’re outside of Singapore but still wish to enjoy the treasures of the ACM, you can still do so with the audio description tours available for free on their website. These highly descriptive tours include details that may seem unnecessary to some sighted listeners but that’s because the museum created these audio tours with persons with vision impairment in mind. For example, some of the tours may compare the height of an object to something that is found in one’s home in order to allow the listener to imagine its size.
Why a visit to ACM is unmissable
Visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum is not merely an encounter with the past; it is an immersion into the very soul of Asia. The museum stands as a bridge between generations, connecting the present with the rich legacies of the past.
In an increasingly interconnected world, understanding different cultures is more important than ever. ACM acts as a medium for cross-cultural empathy, breaking down stereotypes and fostering a sense of global citizenship. In essence, the Asian Civilisations Museum is more than a repository of artefacts; it is a living narrative of Asia’s past, present and future.
For more information on the Asian Civilisations Museum, visit their website here.