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Trace Emotional Ties To History With The Asian Civilizations Museum

ACM’s digital services manager, Jiaying Chen tells us what 3D visualization has done for an event that will continue to remind audiences why art, architecture, and social history are so valuable.

In a turbulent present, what can we learn – and what comforts can we take – from the past? Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum staged that question with a diverse array of voices. From December 2020 to February 2021, the venue unearthed stories behind over 60 objects in its collection: not just fascinating shards of Asian heritage, but the connections that keep them relevant to people today. Faith Beauty Love Hope was a revivifying reflection on history, a personal lens on why cultural preservation matters to each of us. 

What began as a riposte to the pandemic became too precious to lose. Matterport’s digital twins mapped the contours of the Faith Beauty Love Hope exhibition, capturing it for online visitors. The ACM’s digital services manager, Jiaying Chen, tells us what 3D visualization has done for an event that will continue to remind audiences why art, architecture, and social history are so valuable.

Faith Beauty Love Hope 1

Check out the full Faith Beauty Love Hope experience here. 

Q: What inspired you to capture this space in 3D? 

Faith Beauty Love Hope: Our Stories, Your ACM was a special exhibition birthed as a response to the challenges from COVID-19 that impacted our original exhibition calendar. For the first time, instead of a curator-led narrative, we turned to our community – conservators, security officers, docents, student volunteers, staff, and many others – people who keep ACM going, making the museum as it is today possible. Each chose a favorite object from the museum’s collection and shared personal sentiments on their special bond with it.

As it is such a meaningful exhibition to us, we wanted it to live on beyond physical display. This digital twin helps us continue to showcase and celebrate the stories of ACM, as told by our people.  

ACM 1

Check out the full Faith Beauty Love Hope experience here. 

Q: What are the ‘must sees’ you want visitors to explore, and why? 

The exhibition is filled with many of the most exquisite pieces of our museum collection. One of the ‘must sees’ is a cool little rubber duck with sunglasses, near the end of the exhibition route. It might not seem immediately fitting with the curatorial themes, but its story (years ago, there were these toy-duck races along the Singapore River) connects the exhibition to the historic Singapore River. These river banks are home to ACM, and they’re where Singapore’s emergence on the world stage as a trading port began.  

Our experienced volunteer docent, Jo Wright, picked this object and wrote an insightful description about its popularity with the visitors as a star piece many years ago, as well as its national symbolism in the changing states of the Singapore River. I shall not spoil too much – check it out yourself in the digital twin! You can find it in the highlights reel too.

ACM 2

Check out the full Faith Beauty Love Hope experience here. 

Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring your 3D tour? 

Often, artifact labels in our museum bring attention to the artifact's origin, maker, craftsmanship, and intention. We believe that the museum is not just a place to understand objects but also a sanctuary of peace and respite, now more than ever. 

Hence, we hope that the personal stories highlighted in this exhibition helps visitors pause, meditate, and find their own meaning in these timeless objects just as our museum stakeholders did. And that it inspires faith, beauty, love, and hope in trying times.

Q: What are the benefits of Matterport digital twins? 

The digital twins help us welcome visitors from anywhere in the world so they can get a taste of ACM in 3D! As a museum focused on Asian antiquities and decorative art, our collections tell the stories of historical, cultural, and civilizational connections in Asia, as well as those between Asia and the rest of the world. Virtual exhibitions are very much in the spirit of that global flow of culture and ideas.  

Matterport has useful features that make extensive exhibitions easier to navigate – especially the highlights reel. For this exhibition, we also wanted to present a Chinese language version and were glad there was a language toggle.

Q: Do you have any plans to capture more 3D experiences? 

Yes, we are! We are continuing to capture our permanent galleries and special exhibitions, whether to present them again as virtual tours in the future or for archival purposes.