National Museum of Singapore Opens Its First Major Exhibition Of 2021 | "Picturing The Pandemic: A Visual Record Of COVID-19 In Singapore"



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Made possible by the museum’s rapid response to documenting the stories and experiences of people in Singapore in the early phases of the pandemic, the exhibition gives an intimate look into life in Singapore in the “new normal”.

Photo Credit: National Museum of Singapore / Facebook

When: 27 Feb to 29 Aug 2021, 10am to 7pm (Daily)
Where: The National Museum of Singapore, Exhibition Gallery, Basement Level
Admission Fee: Free

Featuring commissioned photographs and film, alongside personal artefacts contributed by the public, the exhibition tells the story of how people in Singapore have come together to respond and live through this unprecedented global crisis, to be shared with future generations.

Here's what you can look forward to at the "Picturing The Pandemic: A Visual Record Of COVID-19 In Singapore" exhibition:

1. Photo Highlights

The exhibition showcases photographs by five photographers (namely, Bob Lee, Edwin Koo, How Hwee Young, Brian Teo and Zakaria Zainal), as well as a short film produced by filmmakers (namely, Dave Lim and Adar Ng), which document up-close the pandemic experience of people living in Singapore, from children and the elderly to migrant workers and professionals providing essential services. These members of the public welcomed the photographers and filmmakers into their lives and offered an honest look at how they have responded to and coped with the pandemic.

  • Deliver

Photo Credit: Zakaria Zainal

Together with his children, retired cleaner Zulkifli Atnawi organised grocery runs of basic supplies for several underprivileged neighbours in Mei Ling Street. In this photo, they are organising their purchases and some donations in their living room.

  • Keeping the Faith

Photo Credit: Zakaria Zainal

Ustaz Mahmoud Mathlub Sidek recording his Friday prayer sermon in the Berita Harian studio. Such a recording session was Ustaz Mahmoud’s first as the 45-year-old is more familiar with addressing thousands of Muslim congregants inside a mosque on a regular Friday.

  • Para-athletes

Photo Credit: How Hwee Young

Aishah Samad is a competitive para-shooter who retired just before Circuit Breaker. This photo shows her exercising at home during the Circuit Breaker period.

  • Singapore General Hospital

Photo Credit: How Hwee Young

How Hwee Young’s photographs in the Singapore General Hospital capture different groups of healthcare workers working together to care for their patients through the challenging times. In this photo, Radiographer Hsiao Yi-Chun (left) and Enrolled Nurse Sakunthala d/o Thanapal (right) prepare a suspected Covid-19 patient for a CT scan.

  • Spaces

Photo Credit: How Hwee Young

Delivery personnel waiting to pick up food deliveries with safe distancing measures marked on the floor in Waterway Point shopping mall in Punggol during Circuit Breaker in Singapore.

  • Community Healthcare

Photo Credit: Edwin Koo

HCA Day Hospice remained open during the Circuit Breaker. About 25 senior citizens with terminal illnesses visited the hospice every weekday for palliative care. One day, the hospice recreated an airport and flight experience for its residents, giving them an imaginative flight experience even as airports around the world limited travel.

  • Schools’ Responses to COVID-19

Photo Credit: Brian Teo

A student from Clementi Primary School walking around the canteen with a sign, reminding students to practise social distancing.

  • Safe Distancing Ambassadors

Photo Credit: Brian Teo

Ms Serene Claire Tay advising commuters to practise social distancing at Lavender MRT station. A Leading Stewardess for Singapore Airlines, she was temporarily redeployed as a transport ambassador with SMRT.

  • Angels of Mercy

Photo Credit: Bob Lee

Christina is a senior staff nurse with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. In this photo, she and another nurse help each other to don their PPE.

2. Objects

  • SG United Embroidery of Alyssa Lim

Photo Credit: National Museum of Singapore

This piece of embroidery was created by Alyssa Lim during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker period, which disrupted her plans to travel or take on part-time jobs before she enrolled in university. Like many others whose lives have been interrupted by the pandemic, Lim turned to home crafts and activities while staying indoors.

Lim’s embroidery pays tribute to those involved in Singapore’s fight against COVID-19. Six figures are depicted here, including a supermarket employee, a volunteer distributing masks, an NSman packing masks, a family doctor, as well as Minister Lawrence Wong – co-chair of the multiministry taskforce on COVID-19 – and Dr Ong Pei Yuin, a physician at the National University Hospital.

  • Sketch Journals/Diaries of Serene Ong and Priscilla Ng

Photo Credit: National Museum of Singapore

When the Circuit Breaker first started in Singapore in April 2020, the local arm of the global community of artists who draw on location, Urban Sketchers Singapore (USS), launched the #circuitsketchbreak challenge to encourage its members to produce one sketch a day for 28 days.

USS members Serene Ong and Priscilla Ng created their own sketch journals in response to this challenge, using sketches and watercolours to depict their observations and daily routine over the Circuit Breaker period. In one of her entries, Ong painted an image of the different ingredients she had used to cook her pasta, while Ng documented a memorable celebration of her own birthday via Zoom on day 21, both scenes that have become ubiquitous in this “new normal”. 

  • Vial of first Pfizer BioNTech COVID19 vaccination in Singapore by the Ministry of Health

Photo Credit: National Museum of Singapore

Nearly a year after the first COVID-19 cases were detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, vaccinations to provide immunity against the disease were introduced. The first shipment of the vaccines, developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, arrived in Singapore on 21 December 2020.

This empty vial contained the vaccine administered to senior staff nurse Sarah Lim from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, the first person in Singapore to receive the injection. The biohazard bag was used to seal the vial in the unlikely event of leakage from any vaccine that was left after the vaccination.

Visitors can also look forward to a special online video series of the exhibition curators in conversation with the photographers and filmmakers, alongside selected profiles featured in the exhibition. The video series, which will also be presented in the exhibition, gives a first person perspective on some of the stories and behind-the-scenes insight into the making of these photographs.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the NMS welcomes members of the public to contribute objects and stories, particularly their unique face mask creations, or innovative and creative responses to the pandemic. The public call, jointly held with the National Library Board, is open for submissions until 30 June 2021.

For more details and up-to-date information on the exhibition, please visit the NMS website.


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This article is prepared by

Leona Quek
Blessed with 3 handsome and loving boys in her life. Two of them call her Mommy, the other calls her Wifey. Every night, she wishes for an early bedtime, but misses her babies as soon as they sleep.

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