In today’s ultra connected world, interpersonal communication has entered a whole other stratosphere. Friends send each other text messages, and notices are sent out through e-mails. Good old fashioned snail mail between two people has slowly become less popular, and the letters we may get regularly are our monthly bills and the occasional wedding invitation. However, nestled in the heart of Singapore, is a place that is devoted to keeping the art of letters, stamps and all things postal alive – The Singapore Philatelic Museum.
In the past, writing letters was the main mean through which we could communicate with friends and family residing overseas. It was much more affordable as compared to making a phone call with a landline. Also, mobile phones weren’t available then. The Internet and e-mail became popular in Singapore around the mid 1990s, and have exponentially grown in popularity. Most Singaporeans nowadays use mobile phones, emails and the Internet to facilitate communication. However, in bigger countries and less developed areas, people still communicate through ‘snail mail’.
The Singapore Philatelic Museum has been around since 1995 and it serves as the guardian of Singapore’s philatelic materials. It also is home to stamps and historical philatelic material from the 1830s up until the present day. These include the world’s first stamp as well as other philatelic materials from around the world, which serve as gateways to learn about the history and culture of other countries as well.
The exhibit that’s grabbing headlines this month is “Return to Sender”, an exhibition dedicated to the life and times of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. The exhibition includes mementoes of Elvis’s life ranging from his childhood, to his musical and acting career. An avid collector has also kindly loaned original vinyl records of some of his biggest hits.
There are even personal effects and mementoes of Elvis’s as well. An example would be this 1000 dollar bill signed by him.
This exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for kids to learn about music history, and indulge in the works of one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. On top of all that, with this being a museum dedicated to philately, this Elvis collection is topped off with special stamps released by different countries in his honour.
If all this pop culture is too much for your kids to handle, head on to the Orange Room, where philatelic history is on display. The world’s first stamp was The Penny Black. In the Singapore Philatelic Museum, it has been recreated to an interactive wall installation that will tell you the history about that stamp. What a great way for kids to learn!
In the Orange Room of the museum, your child can learn about postal heritage and history. The Penny Black was the first adhesive stamp used in a public postal system, and is just one of the many historical philatelic materials in this room. Feast your eyes upon the scooter used by postmen in Singapore in the 1980s!
Did you know that stamps can be made of unusual materials besides paper? On display are vinyl record stamps from Bhutan that produce music when spun on a turn-table, stamps infused with fragrances, gold and silver-foiled stamps, glow in the dark stamps and even stamps made from wood!
On the second floor of the museum, yet more philatelic gems are housed in the Room of Rarities. One of the items on display is the first ever locally produced posting box.
This room also gives plenty of insight into Singapore’s past. There are many letters, postcards and stamps on display from the 1800s. Stamps were introduced in Singapore in 1854. Letters that were sent before that were known as Pre-Stamp Covers. These Pre-Stamp Covers had postal marks on them that contained information on the routes that mail ships would take and how long the journey would be. Different coloured postal marks were also used to indicate whether postage was required.
However, it’s not just the Straits Settlement era that has representation in this museum. Your children can also learn about Singapore during the Japanese Occupation.
There are also several more grim reminders of our past.
As all of us have learnt one way or another, independence was a monumental occasion for our country. We were separated from Malaysia and set to forge our own path in the world. To commemorate this, Singapore released its own stamps, the very first set of stamps that we could truly call our own. What a fascinating snippet of knowledge for our children to digest.
In this room also lie many other testaments that celebrate a milestone in our country’s history. There have been stamps released that commemorate our multi-racial and multi-cultural society. Your children can instantaneously identify with such a theme, having had celebrated Racial Harmony Day in school! Stamps are also pictorial documentations of a country’s significant milestones, events, history and heritage.
How about a tribute to the soldiers who selflessly serve our nation and keep us safe?
There is also a nod to Singapore’s postal history, with a series of stamps that celebrate the opening of Singapore Post’s new headquarters.
Ongoing right now is also an exhibition about the Year of the Sheep, called “Counting Sheep, Dreaming Goats”. It is a great way for children to learn about how other parts of the world view and picture sheep and goats, and also represent them in stamp form! There are even installations where your little one can feel the animal’s fur!
There are stamps from other parts of the world that commemorate this wonderful creature as well.
And, the collection is complete with stamps from our own sunny shores, released to commemorate the Year of the Sheep.
There are rooms where your child can also soak in the heritage of the different races in Singapore. The “Heritage Room” traces the journeys our forefathers made to these shores, and includes many trinkets unique to them.
The “Spice is Nice” exhibition showcases the spices found in Asian cuisine. It is a great way for kids to learn more about the different races in Singapore through our favourite pastime – food!
This exhibit is perfectly complemented with displays of all the dishes from the different races in Singapore as well.
All in all, the museum is a wonderful place, rich in culture and history that is bound to be informational and fun for children. There are numerous hands-on exhibits with which kids can interact with to learn more about stamps and our own Singaporean culture. The museum may also bring back nostalgic memories for parents, who can fondly remember a time when they still sent letters the old fashioned way through snail mail. Bring you kids down and let them indulge in this blast from the past. They can write their own letters, pick a stamp to go with it and keep it as a memento!