Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Biodiversity and heritage at the Lee Kong Chian Museum

On 28 April, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS officially opened and both Kenneth and Lesley-Anne, being biology and geography buffs, were looking very much forward to it. Even though I'm not much of a nature person, natural history museums are one of my favourite types of museums (other than fine art galleries).

So when the opportunity came along for a free visit plus a talk last Friday evening, Kenneth jumped on it and signed us up. Some basic history - the museum has had a tumultuous past, with its artefacts being moved from place to place for a long time. During Singapore's growth years when the focus was on the economy, the last thing the government had on its mind was funding for a collection of ancient artefacts. As a result, many of them were almost destroyed and some were lost.

Happily though, they now have a beautiful new home at NUS. I found the layout of the museum very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Ok, first up: most people who come to the museum are drawn primarily to the three dinosaurs - Prince, Apollonia and Twinky (the last name always makes me chuckle)!

They're right in the centre of the main hall and every half hour for a couple of minutes, coloured lights come on to give them an ethereal effect, which is pretty cool.

But as they like to remind visitors, the museum is so much more than just the dinos. If you would like to know more about the collections, Straits Times ran an informative article here.

Some of the biodiversity displayed is an integral reminder of Singapore's past, eg. when tigers roamed the island. In fact, they were so common that the museum would constantly receive gifts of tiger skins! The pic on the left is of a 1.75m leatherback sea turtle caught at Siglap Beach in 1883.

There are walls and walls of mammals, birds, fish and other zoological exhibits.

This is the comparison of a human skeleton with that of an orang utan.

Everyone in my family knows that I am afraid of, no...TERRIFIED of lizards. So when I saw this display, I was so grossed out I couldn't stop staring (if that even makes sense). It reminded me of the scene in Jurassic Park where Billy thought he was looking at a fossilised raptor and it turned out to be alive. I thought it was the most frightening exhibit in the museum...

 ...until I saw this:

As if squiggly lizards are not yucky enough, there are flying ones! I'm so never stepping into a jungle. My kids laughed at me. They so enjoy seeing me squirm. Though they showed the same level of horrified fascination at the insect walls:

I don't remember what these are but they look like something out of an Alien movie. Oh by the way, they have live scorpions in a glass tank too. That's really something.

And in the Arthropod zone, is one massive crab! I bet Andre is thinking those legs would taste pretty good in chilli sauce...

My honest opinion is that the museum is truly well worth a visit. Lesley-Anne was so enamoured with it she said she wouldn't mind returning for a repeat visit.

In order to ensure the crowds don't get too big, entry is by pre-booking ONLY. You can't just turn up and buy tickets. You book your tickets online for a pre-determined one-and-a-half hour time slot which means you won't have to jostle others to get a good view of the exhibits. Singapore residents pay $16 (adult) and $9 (child, senior citizen, NSF). You can book your tickets here. NUS staff and students enjoy free entry.

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