The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is the accumulation of over a century of regionally inspired efforts by naturalists, curators and individuals passionate about knowledge of the natural world.
Coupling extensive knowledge of the region's biodiversity with some of the incredible specimens from their zoological reference collection that is over a million strong, the museum is like visiting a zoo, one that transcends the boundaries of time and environments.
Each zone of the first floor of the museum is dedicated to a category of life ranging from mammals to birds, fungi to molluscs and is laid out in respect to the evolutionary tree of life. Ironically, it is the specimens of the once-living that brings the stories of each zone to life, contributing to a bigger picture that when in appreciation will surely make you lose track of time.
The personal stories by the passionate individuals of today who champion the continued research of some of the zones are a nice touch too. After all, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum sees its collection as a research resource that will continue to support biological research by scientists from all over the world and inspire future generations.
In the middle of these fascinating facets of life are the museum's three prized dinosaurs - Prince, Apollonia and Twinky. While they will continue to enjoy their mainstream fame as the awesome representatives of natural history research, you will definitely find that the other specimens are equally fascinating.
Up on the second floor of the museum is dedicated to telling the history of the museum that dates back to 1823, in the time of Sir Stanford Raffles. Great stories of Singapore are also told during in this immersive zone known as the Cabinet of Curiosities. I was surprised after learning some of the interesting facts about Singapore, for its natural history and biodiversity is more vibrant that I had ever given it credit for. I am confident that anyone else that walk through this zone will feel the same.
Without spoiling much, three facts that I would like to highlight involves a tiger from Singapore, a massive whale skeleton and a specimen from British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.
Overall, the museum, much like a zoo, will prompt you to return occasionally, especially since one visit certainly would not be enough to truly appreciate all the information presented by the museum. That being said, I would have liked a guided tour programme to enhance the experience.
Some aspects of the museum are quite technical, but through my observations of lecturers giving a tour of the museum to their students (eavesdropping involved), the museum became Singapore's best classroom to deliver facts and stories associated with natural history, some of which you would not find on the written text.
While the museum has no immediate plans to public guided tours, there is a handy webapp that gives you access to a plethora of information regarding the specimens of the museum.
You may also consider the museum as the next corporate outing spot, with an option of a guide tour priced at S$10 per person (excluding ticket) with the group consisting of a minimum of 15 people.
I would like to end off this review with a quote from a conversation I had with Lim Cheng Pauy, one of the museum staff that I befriended during my visit - "I hope that those who visit the museum will realise that Southeast Asia has a lot of biodiversity and that Singapore has a lot of treasures of its own in that regard."
I certainly realised that Mr Lim. I certainly did.
For more information on the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, visit http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/