The term ‘Peranakan’ means ‘locally born’ in Malay, and refers to the descendants of foreign traders who married local women in Southeast Asia centuries ago. Singapore’s Peranakan community is mostly Peranakan Chinese, descendants of Chinese traders who settled in the busy ports of Penang and Singapore in the 19th century.
The Peranakan Museum is housed in a handsome old school. Now a National Monument, the former Tao Nan School was built in 1912, and was the first modern Hokkien school set up in the Straits Settlements. The building’s layout is based on Straits Settlements bungalows, where rooms sit around a central hall while toilets and kitchens are outside the main building.
Meyvaert has a sentimental attachment to this project, since we have provided showcases for this ‘historic’ museum for the third time.
Our first project ever in Singapore was the supply of 93 showcases for the transition of the Old Tao Nan School building in Armenian street to the Asian Civilisations Museum in 1997. In 2007, we had the honour to contribute to the start of the Peranakan Museum housed in the same building. In a completely new scheme design and renovated building, we installed 37 new recessed wall showcases with a modern look and technology. 8 large wall cases from 1997 were reused and upgraded with innovative fibre optic lighting and the most recent presentation techniques and conservation grade materials.
This time the project consisted of 34 custom showcases: 12 recessed wall cases with hinged doors, 16 standing wall cases with hinged doors, 4 standing wall cases with pull-and-slide doors, and 2 table cases with a piston-hinged opening.
Due to Covid, the Meyvaert team in Europe was unable to travel to Singapore for the detailed measurements and meetings. However, the pandemic has forced us to be even more creative in finding solutions. With the help of the client and the fit-out company, we were able to work very efficiently and accurately to bring this project to completion.
As the Museum is an old school building and has been designated a National Monument, Meyvaert followed all the strict building management requirements. Our challenge was to seamlessly integrate the cases into their surroundings by fitting them between the existing walls of the old building, as well as between the customised constructions made by the fit-out company. A minimal margin was allowed on each side of the cases.
We overcame these different challenges thanks to a very intensive coordination and collaboration with the fit-out contractor.
Also worth mentioning is the largest table case for this project: a freestanding showcase with a 2,1 x 2,1 m glass hood weighing 160 kg. Despite its colossal dimensions, this showcase can be easily operated by one person. Not only that, the meticulous calculations of our engineering team even made it possible to open the case smoothly with just one hand.
The cases were equipped with a very specific lighting system. We integrated the existing fiber-optic lighting system with new lighting consisting of LED spots on rails, resulting in a combination of fiber-optics installed on grids and LED spots installed on rails.
This way, we contributed to the go-to destination for Peranakan heritage and culture. The museum, now furnished with our showcases, houses what is reputedly the world’s finest collection of Peranakan artefacts - such as jewellery, furniture and textiles - in ten newly refreshed permanent galleries over three floors. Various aspects of this hybrid Southeast Asian culture are brought to life in this revamped top-notch museum, to which we are proud to have contributed.
© Sze Kiat Koh
34 showcases: 12 recessed wall cases, 20 standing wall cases and 2 table cases
© Sze Kiat Koh