History, Heritage and Honour

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is known for her beautiful green lawns, large shady trees and peaceful lakes. But did you know that a visit to the Gardens also lets you learn about our history, appreciate heritage and honour the efforts of our Chief Gardener in greening our country? Enter via the Tanglin Gate to experience another aspect of the Gardens.

Honouring Singapore’s Chief Gardener


Originally constructed in 1921 for the use of the Gardens’ directors, Holttum Hall was reopened to the public as the Heritage Museum in 2013.

Today, this valuable learning space tells the rich history of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. There is a podium that plays a topographical animation of how the Gardens has developed since 1819. Meanwhile, the walls of the room on the first level depict milestones in the Gardens’ history, from its founding as an experimental garden by Sir Stamford Raffles, to its inscription as Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.


NParks is honoured to be one of the recipients of the artillery shell casings from the 21-Gun Salute for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The Heritage Museuem is also the new home for one of the artillery shell casings from the 21-Gun Salute held during the funeral for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2015. An accompanying panel celebrates the life of Mr Lee as Singapore’s Chief Gardener. The transformation of Singapore into a Garden City had been a central theme of Mr Lee’s vision as Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. The lush tree-lined streets and pervasive network of nature reserves, gardens, parks and park connectors Singaporeans and visitors can enjoy today, are the results of his vision.


Do you know what this is? It is actually a chandelier made of conical flasks and test tubes! Can you count how many there are? The answers are on site!

Move up to the second level and you can find more interesting displays. Learn about the key crops during the early years of Singapore as well as what goes into economy farming, such as the Herring Bone method of tapping rubber from trees without killing them. This method was developed by Henry “Mad” Ridley, Director of the Gardens from 1888 to 1911. The museum even has a section of a tree showing how the Herring Bone method looks like!


Step back in time and check out old books and other items from the early days of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The Heritage Museum is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, but closed on the last Monday of the month. Admission is free.

Go on a World Heritage Tour

Which places qualify to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site? Read about the selection criteria in the CDL Green Gallery.

Presently, visitors to the CDL Green Gallery can explore the various destinations that have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, primarily within South-east Asia. These include Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia, Kinabalu Park in Malaysia, and our very own Singapore Botanic Gardens!

When you walk into the Gallery, which is located just next to the Heritage Museum, it is like entering a library, with ‘books’ and displays lining the walls explaining UNESCO and its purpose. The Gallery will then take you on a wonderful journey through the various UNESCO World Heritage sites and at the end, you can study a large map that details the Heritage sites all over the globe.

Learn more about the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and how its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site has put Singapore on an exclusive list.

This special Gallery is also both a work of art and a scientific marvel. Acclaimed as the first zero energy gallery in Singapore, it produces more energy than it uses, maximising efficiency using a combination of LED lights, special eco-friendly air-conditioners and hempcrete, a special construction material that acts as an insulator to keep heat out. The gallery operates purely on energy from its solar photovoltaic (PV) cladded roof panel, which means it is completely sustainable!The CDL Green Gallery is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, but closed on the last Tuesday of the month. Admission is free.

Peek into the Future
Round off your exploration into history and heritage by taking a peek into the future! Just across the Heritage Museum and the CDL Green Gallery is the Botany Centre. Important research resources and laboratories are located here, like the Herbarium, host to about 750,000 herbarium specimens.


Peek at botanists in the process of transferring germinated orchid samples which requires a careful, trained and steady hand.

You can peer through the large windows on the first level, to see botanists hard at work, continuing the process of orchid hybridisation developed in 1931, which remains a vital part of Singapore’s orchid industry. Once you are done ‘time travelling’ and ‘trekking the world’, pop by the gift shop for a souvenir, or maybe even grab a bite at the eatery located in Botany Centre. Feeling recharged? There is still a wealth of treasures to uncover in the other parts of the Gardens!

Want to find out more about the Singapore Botanic Gardens?
Join us on a National Orchid Garden Tour to view over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of orchids. This tour is held on every third Saturday of the month; admission fees apply.

To learn more about the history of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, join us on a Heritage Tour, held every fourth Saturday of the month. Please email: nparks_sbg_visitor_services@nparks.gov.sg for more details. For more activities at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, visit www.sbg.org.sg and click the 'Learn' tab.

Text and photos by Ray Chong

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