SA Special Report: ‘Story of the Forest’ exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore

Shogakukan Asia’s edutainment books are a great way for the young to learn about the wondrous world of plants and wildlife.

But if you’re looking for a captivating way for both kids and adults to experience and appreciate the marvel of flora and fauna all around us, look no further than the brand new digital art installation that has just been unveiled as a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore.

Entitled Story of the Forest, the larger-than-life digital art installation takes inspiration from The National Museum of Singapore’s William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings — a collection of some 69 drawings of the plants and animals seen in 1800s Malacca and Singapore — and uses cutting-edge projection technology to create the sights and sounds of a rainforest from that era.

Created by the internationally-renowned interdisciplinary creative group teamLab, Story of the Forest is also said to be the most challenging that the group has attempted.

“Due to the massive size and scale of the Glass Rotunda, this is by far the most challenging digital artwork installation created by teamLab to date,” said Toshiyuki Inoko, teamLab founder.

“Our team was immensely inspired by the intricate drawings from the William Farquhar Collection while conceptualising this ground-breaking installation, and we are excited to present it to visitors from Singapore and around the world here at the National Museum,” he added.

Story of the Forest comprises of three distinctive segments.

The exhibit’s entrance takes you directly up to the top of the National Museum of Singapore’s 15-metre-tall Glass Rotunda.

After stepping through the entrance doors, you’ll make your way across a bridge section nearly shrouded in darkness and covered by a seemingly never-ending cascade of digital florae, projected onto the Glass Rotunda’s ceiling.

At the end of the bridge section is a door that takes you into the exhibit’s second part: a 140-metre-long spiral corridor that spans all the way from the top of the Glass Rotunda down to its base.

What’s more, the spiral corridor are lined with projector screens that altogether form a an interactive rainforest where visitors are greeted with many of the wild animals that could be found in Singapore and Malacca during the 1800s, such as the Malayan Tapir.

To add to the experience, visitors can also download a Story of the Forest smartphone app from the Google Play and Apple iTunes stores. Once installed, the app challenges visitors to take pictures of various fauna and flora that can be found on the projector screens near them.

Visitors who successfully capture the likeness of these animals or plants on their phones will then unlock a brief dossier on each plant or animal species.

What we found most amazing about the virtual rainforest segment of Story of the Forest was that, if you stayed in the exhibit long enough, the weather in the rainforest would actually transition from a sunny day to a wet, rainy monsoon weather — during which a different set of wildlife would come out to play.

Finally, after you’ve trekked through the breathtaking 140-metre long, you’ll arrive at the dome-shaped base of the Glass Rotunda, where 59 projectors work in sync to create a diorama of trees and cascading flora.

At the dome-shaped base, there are also sensors that allow visitors to interact with the exhibit. Walk around the circumference of the room, and you may just find a trail of trees and other natural plants sprouting and springing into life on the projector screens behind you.

Overall, teamLab’s Story of the Forest digital art installation was not only a bedazzling and magical experience, but also a fine display of how cutting-edge technology and digital art can be tapped on to preserve our past. We highly recommend making a trip down to the National Museum of Singapore with your friends or family — or even on your own — to check it out.

The National Museum of Singapore’s Glass Rotunda and Story of the Forest exhibit is open from 10AM to 7PM daily.