via Hyperallergic, 26 Mar 2019: A critical piece about the Raffles exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum (see other reviews here and here), but the headline is unfair – it suggests that the exhibition sets out to ‘decolonize’ the museum (for whatever that means) in the first place.
Three large billboards loom beside the gates of Singapore’s Raffles Place metro station, advertising the Asian Civilisations Museum’s latest special exhibition, Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman. The billboards feature several taglines about the metro station’s namesake: “Plagiarist or pioneer? Leader or liar? Scholar or scoundrel?” The tone here is barbed, suggestive, inviting us to reconsider our understanding of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781–1826), a British colonial administrator now branded in history textbooks as the founder of Singapore and a national hero: a figure whose legacy includes an international healthcare conglomerate, the state’s most prestigious high school, and, yes, a subway station. While the museum’s marketing team deserves kudos for getting the ball rolling in a long overdue public reconsideration of Raffles’ legacy, the exhibition unfortunately turns out to be entirely different from what is promised, lacking the bite and verve of its advertising campaign.