Istana Heritage Gallery

Weather :

Ideal time : 1 - 2 hours

Entry Fee : No Entry Fee

Timings : Thursday - Tuesday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Istana Heritage Gallery, Singapore Overview

Istana is the official residence and the office of the President of Singapore. It is also where formal state events are hosted and foreign dignitaries are received, as well as the working office of the Prime Minister of Singapore. Since the Istana is only open to the public on select holidays like the Chinese New Year, the Istana Heritage Gallery was built to give the public access to the rich history of the Istana on all days.

Initially, the Istana used to a part of a nutmeg plantation, before it was procured by the British and built as the residence of the colonial governor of Singapore, which was called the Government House. It is a Palladian style mansion and was designated as a National Monument in 1992. The exhibition at the Istana Heritage Gallery is very distinctive. Not only does it exhibit the various magnificent state gifts received by the Presidents and Prime Ministers of Singapore from foreign dignitaries on official visits, but it also traces the development of Singapore from a British colony to an independent nation. The exhibits showcase the history of the Istana and its grounds, displaying its journey from being the house of the colonial governor to the Official Residence of the President. The Istana's special role in the ceremonial, constitutional and community duties of the President are also beautifully highlighted in the Istana Heritage Gallery.

Photos of Istana Heritage Gallery

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History of the Istana Heritage Gallery

Captive labourers made the bricks for the Istana building, with the iron being imported from England and the timber coming from Johor. The total construction cost of the Istana was more than the combined cost of the Victoria Theatre, the former Empress Place Building (now the Asian Civilizations Museum) and St Andrew's Cathedral, thereby going over the budget. Encik Yusof bin Ishak, Singapore’s first local head of state made the Istana his office when Singapore attained self-governance in 1959. It was also during this period that the Government House was renamed the Istana. This long journey of the Istana has been beautifully told in the exhibits and displays at the Istana Heritage Gallery.

Sightseeing at the Istana Heritage Gallery

  • A pair of silver goblets, presented to the late President S R Nathan by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 is one of the most beautiful exhibits at the Gallery.
  • A bust of an Induna (headman) gifted by the late South African President Nelson Mandela to the late President Ong Teng Cheong in 1997, is another interesting item on display at the Gallery.
  • The Gallery also houses a writing desk which has digital reproductions of the greetings written in the Istana Guest Book by the numerous visiting state heads over the years.
  • The Istana Heritage Gallery also has numerous information panels which depict the Istana’s rich history and heritage along with the State Gifts, various beautiful artifacts and magnificent artwork.

Activities at the Istana Heritage Gallery

Visitors have the option of embossing an Istana bookmark and taking it with them as a souvenir. The Gallery also has a digital app, which complements the displays, and shows many before and after scenes.

Tips For Visiting Istana Heritage Gallery

  • Visitors should not touch any items that are on open display, and should treat the gallery's electronic items with care.
  • Children aged 12 years and below have to be escorted by adults at all times.
  • Visitors have to switch their mobile devices to silent mode and must not talk or laugh loudly. They should also not carry bulky items into the gallery, thereby obstructing the passage of other visitors.
  • Visitors are allowed to take photographs but without flash and for personal use only. Photos of items on display cannot be used for commercial purpose without prior written consent from the President's Office.
  • Visitors cannot bring selfie sticks and tripods into the gallery.
  • Food and drinks are not allowed in the gallery.
  • Visitors should not lean on the display cases or run about in the gallery.
  • The nearest dining and washroom facilities are at My Art Space opposite the Istana Heritage Gallery or Plaza Singapura or The Cathay.

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