Photograph 2008 by the author. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Asian Civilizations Museum

Asian Civilizations Museum (formerly Government Offices). Empress Place, Singapore. Designed by J.F.A. McNair. 1860s and later extensions. According to the museum's own site, this example of "neo-Palladian architectural style" originally served as the home of government offices.

The original building was much smaller than it is today, occupying what are our Southeast Asia and West Asia galleries. Designed by colonial engineer JFA McNair in the mid 1860's, and built by convict labour at a cost of �53,000, Government Offices as it was called then, was extended several times. It grew to accommodate practically the entire colonial bureaucracy. The office of the Colonial Secretary was there, as was the Legislative Chamber. The presence of the Surveyor General meant that up till very recently, the building was the locus of the cartographic coordinates of Singapore.

The building was re-named the Empress Place Building at the beginning of the 20th century, in honor of Queen Victoria. Government departments continued to occupy the building after Singapore's independence. Many people still remember the museum for the Citizen's Registry, Immigration Department, and Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which were housed here.

Postcards from the collection of Professor Ernest Chew, National University of Singapore.

Left: Memorial Hall & Government Secretary Office. Empress Place, Singapore. Postcard, after 1906 (when tower added). No publisher or photographer indicated, postmark year blurred. Right: Governments [sic] House. Empress Place, Singapore. Postcard, 14 x 9 cm. c. 1900. No publisher or photographer indicated, postmark year blurred. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Government House. Empress Place, Singapore. Postcard, 13.9 x 8.9 cm. c. 1900.Publisher: "Sole Agents G. R. Lambert, Singapore."


"History of the Empress Place Building." Asian Civilizations Museum site. Viewed 26 October 2008.

Last modified 26 October 2008