Designing Singapore’s First Ground-Up Community Museum

Victor Li wants Queenstown’s community museum to be more than a spot for reminiscing about the past.
The museum is painted a light blue, a colour associated with Queenstown from the distinctive blue walls of the Queenstown MRT station and the blue-tinted windows of the first high-rise housing blocks in the satellite town.
The museum is painted a light blue, a colour associated with Queenstown from the distinctive blue walls of the Queenstown MRT station and the blue-tinted windows of the first high-rise housing blocks in the satellite town.

In Queenstown, the kampong spirit is alive and thriving. Just ask Victor Li – he knows it well and he shows it off.

The Senior Assistant Director at DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) is part of a 150-member group that conducts walking tours of Queenstown, Holland Village, Alexandra, Tiong Bahru and Bukit Merah. Founded in 2008 by civic group My Community, the tours celebrate the heritage of Queenstown.

Victor grew up in another part of Singapore, where neighbourly interactions were limited, but moved to Tanglin Halt in 2014. He joined a guided tour to learn more about his new neighbourhood and ended up smitten with the warmth of the community.

“Residents would wave at the tour guide, residents would share stories, and when we stopped at shops, the guide would banter with the shopkeepers,” he recalls.

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When we stopped at shops, the guide would banter with the shopkeepers.

Since then, Victor himself has been a guide, showing off the neighbourhood to visitors once a month. After guiding for three years, he is taking on a new challenge within My Community as the lead for Museum@My Queenstown, Singapore’s first ground-up community museum, which is set to open in January 2019.

The museum will showcase artefacts from the area, including items donated by old residents and shopkeepers. There will also be Setron TV sets and block number signboards from Tanglin Halt’s iconic chap lau chu, or 10-storey flats, now vacated under the Housing and Development Board’s en-bloc and housing-renewal scheme.

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In Victor’s adventures around Tanglin Halt, he has also discovered fascinating characters and anecdotes. His favourite is Alice, a resident of 49 years, whom he fondly gave the nickname “the neighbourhood’s head honcho”. Alice watches over her neighbours’ homes, and even offers a key-press cabinet for residents to store their keys.

But as residents move away or pass on, “the question is how to create this sense of community and shared memory among the residents of Queenstown”, says Victor.

So what better way to bring everyone together than to create the Queenstown community museum? But Victor doesn’t want the museum to be only a spot for visitors to reminisce about the past, but a place to celebrate the neighbourhood and the community.

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The question is how to create this sense of community and shared memory among the residents of Queenstown.

To do that, he is creating archetypes of the different types of museum visitors, using design thinking principles he has picked up while at Dsg. The museum exhibits can then be organised to cater to different visitor profiles, such as long-time residents, newer residents and tourists, and meet their various interests.

And in true kampong spirit, Victor is not doing this alone – he is on the lookout for like-minded individuals who share the passion for community-building to fulfil a shared vision.

Keen to volunteer with My Community? For volunteer opportunities, go to My Queenstown Facebook page.

  • POSTED ON
    Jan 7, 2019
  • TEXT BY
    Fiona Liaw
  • PHOTOS BY
    Roy Ng
  • ART DIRECTION BY
    Yip Siew Fei
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