Singapore 2017: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

PX and I visited the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum! This was actually supposed to be a date two months prior but we got too busy with work and travel. Luckily, Vesak Day is recognised as a public holiday in Singapore, so we took advantage of it. The museum wasn’t even crowded! I think there were only ten other people besides us; quite a pity because the exhibits were so plentiful and surprisingly educational that it deserves to be more popular than it looked to be from our trip there. It was so tiring walking around for a little more than three hours as we pored through every nook and cranny of this museum, but we definitely learnt a lot. It was definitely a good time for the SGD $16 entrance ticket.

We dressed to the theme of mermaids, since Mermay and all, but also because the catalyst for our trip was actually to visit the Out of the Water exhibit in the museum. I thought I did okay with the mermaid tights and green and silver eyeliner, but PX totally upped the game by pasting iridescent stars on her face and gold triangles on her arm. She even put on a whale brooch that she made herself!

These three dinosaur fossils were the clearly the pride of the museum. Named Apollonia, Prince, and Twinky, they’re still an enigma to experts as to the exact genus and species. All we know is that they belong to the family Diplodocidae, identified by long-necked, whip-tailed sauropods. Those tails are hypothesised to be able to create sonic booms!
The Changi Tree (Hopea sangal) was originally thought to be locally extinct until it was discovered in 2002, and not even three months later was it cut down to make way for development. The coincidence is so terribly tragic that I can’t help but find it funny.
We got to see what different species of wood look like under a microscope! On the left is the cellular structure of the Durian (Durio), and the one on the right is that of the Kempas (Koompassia malaccensis). Both specimens were stained and permanently mounted from the 1970s. They look so different internally even though I probably wouldn’t be able to tell their exteriors apart.
The exhibit of herbarium sheets were one of my favourites. These sheets are a space-efficient way to preserve samples of plant diversity, and include details of its collection, such as the habitat it was found in. I ocassionally collect interesting pieces of flora (off the ground) to press and preserve them, so hey I could have started making my own collection of herbarium sheets all along?!
This window places focus on the extinct Trilobite, and includes models of it moulting and curling. So fascinating.
That’s a huge wall projection on PX’s right. Just thought that it was cool how digital animation livened up the wall partitions in this space.
Left: Halved shells of a chambered Nautilus (Nautilus pompilius). Right: Halved shells of a fossil Nautilus (Cymatoceras) from the Cretaceous period. This extinct species basically lived during the same era as the T-rex.
I appreciated how there were seating areas throughout the museum. I didn’t even miss out while I rested my poor feet thanks to these pull-out info cards! Did you know that the Bornean flat-headed frog is entirely without lungs and takes in oxygen through its skin?
Of course a natural history museum would not be without its huge collection of insects.
I couldn’t help but send the cockroach feature to all my friends.
My favourite specimen in this display was the Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko), featured on the right. The Wikipedia link shows how colourful it actually is and also includes its mating call. It was cool to read up on the nickname given to it by the US soldiers in Vietnam as well as its cultural significance in Asia.
Left: Jars of snakes, particularly the Indian Cobra (Naja naja). Right: A closer look at the skull of a Reticulated Python (no. 12) and that of a King Cobra (no. 14), and learning how these different types of snakes kill their prey just by looking at the shape of their jaws and teeth – Pythons bite their prey before suffocating them, while Cobras wait for their prey to die after injecting venom into them.
These birds looked so uncanny at a glance, until we realized that it was because their legs were tucked into their tails feathers. We didn’t know why until later when PX made the connection that taxidermy animals were probably stored in boxes or drawers back then.
Also, these early 1900s taxidermy works were pretty funny with their stuffed eye sockets and weird facial reconstruction.
This is a cast of the Archaeopteryx “Berlin specimen”. The Berlin specimen is the most well-preserved out of all thirteen specimens uncovered in the world, and the impressions of feathers in most of these unearthed pieces indicate that feathers were an evolutionary trait by the Late Jurassic period.
Some of the exhibits invited us to touch them! Here’s PX molesting the skull of an Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus). Her iridescent star stickers are also glimmering in this photo.
Check out all these skulls from our ancestral cousins – Homo sapiens is the one on the bottommost right corner.
Male human on the left and a Bornean Orangutan on the right.
Here’s a couple of my favourite taxidermy derp jerbs from the early 1900s. On the left is a petrified Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), and on the right is baby bear when he found Goldilocks sleeping in his bed.
A wonderful display of Sea Urchins, Pencil Urchins, Heart Urchins, Sand Dollars, Brittle Stars, and Sea Stars (Asteroidea).
Some of my favourites were the the Helmet Urchin (left) and a couple of unmarked nobbly balls on the right.
Left: Sea Scorpions (Eurypterus remipes). Right: The living fossils that are Horseshoe Crabs.
I like this diagram charting the different types of fish parts.
Left: Black Devilfish (Melanocetus). Right: Deepsea Anglerfish (Lophiiformes). Stripped of their colouring, these two fishes don’t look any different to me to be honest.
Left: The smaller leg and foot of an Asian Elephant set against the larger fossil leg of a Triceratops (Triceratops horridus)! The Triceratops was my favourite dinosaur when I was a kid. Right: Christmas Island Blue Crab (Discoplax celeste).
I never knew just how ridiculously long a Narwhal’s (Monodon monoceros) horn actually was. Wow.
These are the bones of a Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that washed up on Singapore’s shores in 2015. Towards the end of its tail is a translucent cast that replaces the original vertebra that had split into two, likely from an impact with a ship.
It was so disheartening to see that the contents of the Sperm Whale’s stomach included multiple plastic cups and plastics. Above the specimens of human neglect are jars containing squid beaks – more than 1,800 beaks from at least nine species of squid were also found in its stomach.
The Raffles Natural History collection resides on the second level.
Skin of Tiger (Panthera tigris).
We finally got around to the Out of the Water exhibit on level two. This exhibit explored the animals that propagated popular myths and legends:
The graphics on these displays were so pretty! I also liked how they cast interesting shadows on the floor.
Close-up of the cabinet on Mermaids: a Dugong skulls, Seagrass, and a Dugong foetus.
The exhibit also included a book of newspaper cuttings and various documents. This page even had a note disclaiming quite vehemently that what was portrayed in the article was not a Swordfish.
Here’s a Swordfish.
The exit quip was cute.
We had to take a selfie in front of what I call the mandala at the entrance of the museum before we left.