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National Museum aims to be lifestyle destination after dark

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 1730 hrs

SINGAPORE: Think museums and one usually thinks of sedate, stuffy places…but the Singapore National Museum has been re-inventing itself.

Come dusk, it transforms itself with a different look and crowd that is distinctly hip.

It recently launched a restaurant called Novus, which is Latin for new, where old and new sit comfortably in the refurbished museum.

"Traditionally, our museums would close at sunset and there will be no activity. But included in this re-development plan that we had given the National Museum, we wanted the museum to be alive too during the night.

"So the best thing is to have people come, doing what they want to do best after work, which is a lot of F&B - a little bit of drinking, a little bit of dining," says Lee Chor Lin, Director, National Museum of Singapore.

And it was a happy crowd indeed.

"I think it's about time - if you guys are going to make it into a stuffy place and keep people away who only come here because it's a school excursion and don't appreciate it, what for? I mean you are bringing people here - keeping it alive - that's good," says one visitor.

"It's a great crossroads between gastronomy and design which is a bit of a textbook answer but it does fit in with what it's trying to achieve," says another.

Others say: "This is very original…good ambience and something unique in Singapore," and, "I just think the museum venue is a destination spot right? It's not a walk by, kind of drop in kind of thing - so it's a more pre-planned kind of thing that I am going to go here tonight."

Competition on the night scene is tough. So, what will give the Museum its edge?

"We also still do have what we do best, which is galleries…presenting history. These galleries stay [open until] 9 o'clock so if you want a break from your main course you can still go to the galleries and have a look," says Lee.

That is what hooked Novus Restaurant's young sibling co-owners, 22-year-old Ying and 27-year-old Yung: "We jumped at the chance because it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us. If it wasn't for the National Museum being available, we would not have done this."

About 10 per cent of the museum's space is given out to food and beverage outlets as well as spaces, which can be rented out for private parties.

Also recently opened is the appropriately-named Muse bar, which on the evening Channel NewsAsia visited, was hosting the Lamborghini Club, where a new car model was being launched.

Once again ..meshing tradition with modernity. - AFP/yy

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