The Largest Natural History Museum in Southeast Asia – Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)

“The largest natural history museum in Southeast Asia” was published in Yomiuri newspaper on 18 September 2014.

The Yomiuri Shimbun has the largest circulation in Japan.  Almost 10 million copies printed daily.

Keita Ikeda interviewed both Dr Makoto and Prof Leo Tan.

Full Newspaper Article [Translated]

Singapore is Opening Southeast Asia’s Biggest Natural History Museum

by Keita Ikeda

Singapore – Southeast Asia’s biggest natural history museum will open in spring next year in Singapore. It will showcase the ecosystem of the region. In the dinosaur section, a Japanese scientist is sharing his expertise based on his experience in a Japanese museum. This museum is expected to be the biggest research center for Southeast Asia’s biological evolution.

“All three dinosaurs which were found in the same area have small heads compared to their bodies. They may be a new species.” said Dr. Makoto Manabe, 54 years old, in front of a bone from the 27-metre dinosaur fossil which is nicknamed ‘Prince’. He has been a paleontologist in the National Museum of Nature and Science in Japan for 20 years. He has been asked to assist in the production of the dinosaur section, since he had experience in helping a dinosaur exhibition in Singapore in 2006.

The three dinosaurs’ fossils, which the new natural history museum is set to exhibit, were recently found in the United States. They lived approximately 150 million years ago. Dr. Manabe is studying the fossils to find out how old they were and how quickly they grew. He will then reflect the result of his research in a new exhibit of the museum. He will compare the bones with those housed in the Japanese museum, and do deeper analyses because the dinosaur bones in Japan also supposedly lived in the same period.

Singapore is one of the top countries to research in advanced science and technology but it is said that in terms of natural history, Singapore was behind many Western countries. Most specimens which have been inherited since British colonization were put as exhibits in a small research center at the National University of Singapore.

Against this backdrop, NUS professor, Professor Leo Tan, aged 69, asked the National University of Singapore President if this natural history museum could be built. He got the promise that the University will provide the museum with land as long as he could gather donations for the building. He did manage to finally raise about 4.8 billion yen in donations from within Singapore.

Amongst others, the new museum will also showcase 95% of the butterfly species in Southeast Asia, including those which are now extinct. Such exhibits will better support research in Southeast Asia as it has been a challenge for researchers to travel to various countries to conduct studies. Professor Tan said, “I want to make this a research hub that allows researchers to collect more data on Southeast Asia’s ecosystem here.”

Such a standalone museum is the first case in Singapore. Museums in Singapore are usually part of government bodies. As such, ticket sales will matter. The Japanese National Museum of Nature and Science will continue to share its expertise on how to showcase specimens to attract more visitors.

Last year, staff of this to be opened museum went to Japan and learnt how the Japanese museum showcases its specimens. The building of new natural history museums is not common, even in Western countries, and so scientists from all over the world including America and Germany are also eager to offer their expertise.


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