How Are Our National Collection Preserved, Restored And Conserved?

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An interactive travelling exhibition that will show how the Heritage Conservation Centre conserves our National Collections and maintain them in the best state for display. 

Venue: National Library Building, B1-01
Date: Till 30 September 2021 before moving to other Libraries
Admission: Free

Visiting a museum is both an interesting and knowledge building experience, and with many kids-friendly exhibits and museums in Singapore, it is something that more families are engaging in too. But have you ever wondered how the exhibits are maintained and conserved? Who takes care of them? Or who repairs them when required? 

The National Heritage Board (NHB) presents The World of Heritage Conservation:¬†Sneak Peeks into Safeguarding Singapore‚Äôs National Collection, a new travelling exhibition¬†that brings visitors into the often unseen world of the conservators at the Heritage Conservation¬†Centre (HCC) who care for these treasures. The exhibition features case studies of how items in¬†the National Collection are conserved in four fields ‚Äď paintings, textiles, objects and paper ‚Ästalongside displays of a conservator‚Äôs tools of trade.

Four Conservators Specialising In Four Fields

The exhibition profiles four of HCC’s conservators, each specialising in one of the four conservation fields, to demonstrate the process of interventive and preventive work on artwork and artefacts in our National Collection.

The exhibits provides insights into the work done by the conservators, from the tools used to the process done to restore and prevent damage, in conserving four highlighted artefacts in each of the fields.


This painting, titled Red Rover off Singapore, was painted in the 19th century and depicts the opium clipper, Red Rover, at sea with the Singapore waterfront in the background. The Red Rover was the first of a line of clippers that transported opium from India to China during the peak of the opium trade in the 19th century. The clipper frequented Singapore, which was a regular port of call along the opium trade route between Calcutta and Hong Kong.

Photo Credits: National Heritage Board

During the conservation process, a¬†second ‚Äėhidden‚Äô layer of overpaint (a layer that was¬†not part of the original painting) was discovered. Senior Conservator (Paintings), Damian Lizun, took extra care to remove the overpaint and to carefully restore the artist's¬†original intention.¬†

Here, you can find interactive boards that show how the paint reacts to different types of light, and how the conservator uses this to "breakdown" the painting and to see beneath any overpaint.


This cheongsam and jacket ensemble belonged to Datin Aw Cheng Hu, the late daughter of Aw Boon Par, one of the Aw Brothers well-known for Tiger Balm and Haw Par Villa in Singapore. The cheongsam and jacket were made by Shanghainese tailors with fabric bought from High Street in Singapore.

Photo Credits: National Heritage Board

In conserving the cheongsam-jacket set, a mannequin made of inert materials was customised to prepare the set for display. To best display the cheongsam-jacket ensemble, Conservator (Textiles), Chuance Chen had to study the artefact’s history and biography to better understand the owner, interpret the silhouette of the mannequin and customise the mannequin for an exhibition environment. 

Ever wondered how different material's look like under a magnifying glass - use the interactive feature and discover the difference! 


This toothbrush belonged to WWII prisoner of war, Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston from the 2/9th Field Ambulance in the Australian Army's 8th Division, which participated in the defence of Malaya and Singapore from 1941-1942.

Photo Credits: National Heritage Board

The brush was in an extremely brittle state when it first came into HCC. Its handle was broken into pieces and Assistant Conservator (Objects), Sophia Lee had to identify the material used to create the handle and to reconstruct the handle to make it whole again. 

Like a puzzle, the interactive 9-pieces panel will let you move the pieces until you form a complete picture of the brush. 


Panorama of Singapore was drawn from memory by British artist Stephen Wiltshire over five days at Paragon Shopping Centre in July 2014. Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, Wiltshire possesses an exceptional memory. He drew Singapore’s cityscape on a four by one metre sheet of paper based purely on his recollection from an hour-long helicopter ride over the city the day before.

Photo Credits: National Heritage Board

The artwork faced an issue of cockling, which meant that there were wrinkles that formed on the paper. If left unaddressed, these wrinkles can cause permanent creases on the artwork. Due to it's size, Senior Conservator (Paper), Lee Siew Wah had to work with her team to identify suitable venue and materials to allow for optimal treatment of the artwork. 

The artwork is reduced and put into flip-panels, so that you can view its entirety easily. 

A Roving Exhibition

The World of Heritage Conservation: Sneak Peeks into Safeguarding Singapore’s National Collection will be on display at the Central Public Library from today till 30 September, before it travels to different locations across the island as listed below: 

  • October 2021: Bishan Public Library
  • November 2021: Jurong West Public Library
  • December 2021: Marine Parade Public Library
  • January 2022: [To be confirmed]
  • February 2022: Tampines Regional Library



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This article is prepared by

Jiarong Yu
Daddy to 2 adorable little ones. Misses them the moment they are not around, regrets missing them the moment they are around.

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