Meeting of the Worlds: Reframing Singapore’s Early History with ‘An Old New World’

Mr  Daniel Tham2

2National Museum of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

With “An Old New World: From the East Indies to the Founding of Singapore, 1600s–1819,” an exhibition held in conjunction with Singapore’s Bicentennial, the National Museum of Singapore situated Singapore’s founding as a British East India Company settlement in 1819 in a longer historical narrative and broader geographical context. The epistemological, and in turn curatorial, approach involved framing this history in terms of the “worlds” and “worldviews” represented. This is highlighted in the exhibition’s title, which contrasts the largely European perspective of the East Indies being a “new world” to be discovered and exploited, with a local perspective of the region being an “old world” that had already been thriving culturally and economically for centuries. This paper examines how the exhibition’s framing of Singapore’s history and historiography in terms of the “meeting of the worlds” allows for pertinent questions of knowledge and power to be surfaced and negotiated.


Biography

Daniel Tham is Curatorial Lead at National Museum Singapore. Specialising in paintings, prints and photography, his exhibitions at the museum include “A Changed World: Singapore Art 1950s–1970s.” He was centrally involved in the revamp of the Singapore History Gallery in 2015, and is curator of “An Old New World.”

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