Museums are made for rainy days–there’s a coziness to them that gives the exhibits added depth and I think we’re all inclined to linger and read every single bit of information. I had already wanted to go to the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore during our trip (especially for the Batik Kita exhibit!), but a day of tropical downpours made it the right time. Visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum was an absolute highlight of my trip and I’ve wanted to go back almost since we left. Fair warning–this is a photo heavy post because I absolutely loved everything in this museum and while I haven’t included every picture I took, I felt like they tell as much of the story as my writing.
It was the kind of rain that drives straight down in sheets, so stepping into it is an immediate soaking. The museum wasn’t far from our hotel, but we opted for a taxi. We don’t need to mention that the taxi let us off in the wrong place so we got soaked anyway–multiple buildings with similar names in a big complex can do that.
The museum does cost to enter–it’s free for locals and a small price for tourists. I’m actually a big fan of an upcharge for tourists, but that’s a post for another day. There’s also an extra charge for special exhibits (again a difference in price), but I happily paid it to see the Batik Kita exhibit.
I will note that our visit coincided with the then very recent relaxing of mask mandates. I am not at all going to argue about it–I’m a rule follower. There was a mix of rules and places were still deciding what to do and signage was slowly reflecting that. I was just thrilled to be able to travel again. Find more info on planning your visit here.
I was excited for this museum because the permanent exhibits included the region’s history of maritime trade, which I knew next to nothing about, and crafts, design, and textiles, which is, as you know, totally my thing.
Each gallery was positively full of exhibits. You know how some museums feel like they have more space than things? This wasn’t one of them. Items and information overload were everywhere and I happily soaked it all in. If you’re at all a learner, this museum is a must.
One of the really interesting things to me was the sheer amount of donated exhibits. Descriptions were always more than a single line and often included who donated it or what collection it originally came from. These weren’t items taken from another country–these were local and from local families.
The museum itself doesn’t feel massive–I’ve been in much larger buildings. It definitely makes use of its space, though, and it’s easy to have a daydreamy wander through the exhibits. The galleries had such different feels to them, too. Some were dark and moody and backlit, while others were full of glass and light.
The Batik Kita exhibit was being advertised all around Singapore while we were there. I admit that I knew very little about batiks, but there was no way I could pass up an exhibit about local fabrics and it was the perfect opportunity to learn.
As a history/fabric/crafty lover, entering the exhibit was almost overwhelming. There were large pieces displayed with such intricate and varied designs that I spent as much time studying the fabrics themselves as reading the incredibly detailed placards.
Not only did the exhibit show bolts of batiks, it showed how it was used in clothing across years, trends, and cultures. There were traditional outfits juxtaposed with modern designs. Batiks from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore were on display.
Everyday batiks coupled with big designers, one-off pieces and bigger runs of designs–the exhibit had it all.
The batiks told stories. They were prized. They were ceremonial. They told of resistance and conformity. They spoke of family and pride.
I so thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum–it was most definitely a highlight of my trip to Singapore. I’m grateful that our visit coincided with the Batik Kita exhibit because I not only got to see gorgeous fabrics, I learned so much about a fabric I had previously been somewhat dismissive of. The museum as a whole held my interest the entire time and I would go back in a heartbeat. I couldn’t tell you how long we were there, but the rain had stopped when we left.
Want to learn more about batiks? Check out these books. These are affiliate links.
Want more to do in Singapore? The Ice Cream Museum is fun!