Alvin Yapp


69 Joo Chiat Terrace Singapore 427231

Museum Roundtable Award for Best Overall Experience 2011


The Intan: an accidental museum

The Intan is a curious, little private museum. It sits in the middle of a row of houses in the heart of a historical and residential area of Singapore. Occupying an area no larger than 1,000 square feet (90 square meters), the museum celebrates the culture and heritage of the Peranakans: a unique people of Singapore and the region.

What makes The Intan remarkable is that it is an ls"accidental' museum. A young man's simple pursuit of his heritage and cultural identity 25 years ago has become Singapore's first and only private home museum.

In October 2011, The Intan was awarded ls"Best Overall Experience' in the esteemed Museum Roundtable Awards, Singapore's first national accolade dedicated to museums and galleries.
Who are the peranakans?

For centuries, the riches of Southeast Asia brought foreign traders to the region. While many returned to their homelands, some remained behind, marrying local women. The Peranakan culture is a unique hybrid of these cultures.

Stemming mainly from the Chinese and South Indians (Hindus and Muslims) together with the local indigenous community in the 18th century, the culture resulted in a fascinating fusion of traditions, beliefs and tastes. Together with the wealth amassed by the Peranakans during that period, many of the rituals and ceremonies were visibly opulent yet delightfully romantic. Over the years, the Peranakan culture evolved into a distinctive blend with traces of Portuguese, Dutch, British, Malay, Indonesian and Chinese influences.

The evolution of the Intan museum
Alvin Yapp, Founder Owner of The Intan

Advocator, believer, educator - Alvin is one of Singapore''s foremost purveyors of Peranakan culture with over two decades of experience as a passionate collector of Peranakan antiques.

Born to Peranakan parents, Alvin's interest in his heritage was piqued when he was 16, after watching a Peranakan-themed play. While his parents enjoyed the show, Alvin found it a challenge to grasp the play's context and nuances. Epiphany struck and from that moment on, Alvin decided to set out on his journey of self and cultural discovery.

At 18, Alvin started collecting Peranakan antiques to learn more about his culture. It was through this process that he realised there was inadequate documentation on Peranakan antiques, which spurred him to find out more. "It was a struggle to discover the background of these pieces as much of the information was through spoken histories," he says.

In 2003, Alvin started The Intan - a private home museum. Word of his formidable collection got around, which led to constant requests for him to exhibit his antiques.

Together with his parents, Alvin curates and upkeeps the museum collection, as well as conceptualises and runs awareness programmes at The Intan. Alvin sees The Intan not as a commercial endeavour, but as an emotive and constantly evolving tribute to one of Singapore''s and Southeast Asia's most unique communities.

"With The Intan, I hope to make heritage relevant by exploring new ways to show the public what it means to be Peranakan," he says.

Today, Alvin remains as passionate as ever about Peranakan antiques. He is a respected aficionado who is much sought after for his views and insights on the subject.

A businessman by day, Alvin is the Director of BusAds Pte Ltd, a family-run enterprise specialising in large-format printing and outdoor advertising for the last 30 years. 

Best overall experience award
Museum Roundtable Awards, National Heritage Board of Singapore
In 2011, The Intan was honoured ls"Best Overall Experience" in the inaugural Museum Roundtable (MR) Awards, an initiative by the National Heritage Board (NHB) of Singapore.   Being the first national accolade dedicated to museums and galleries, the awards identify and celebrate shining examples of museum excellence amongst its members.

As the smallest and the youngest member, The Intan was recognised for the award by being true to the following fundamentals:
Personality and charm - The House
The Intan is housed in Alvin's personal home. Typical of houses that are associated with the community, it is long and narrow - an architectural feature that takes one back to a time under the Dutch era, when taxes were determined on the number of windows a house had. 

It is only in stepping through the wooden door that the pure delight of the place becomes evident as one sets foot in a world where the rich culture of a forgotten time awaits discovery. Inside, the soft light that filters through its narrow openings and skylights reveals the wealth of what The Intan holds - a superb collection of all things unmistakably Peranakan. History comes alive with a dazzling array of precious historical antiques spanning from the magnificently decked ancestral altar to the gleaming mother-of-pearl furniture, from distinctly coloured nyonyaware (porcelain) to personalised silver sireh (betel leaf) boxes.   The wooden staircase, handsomely lined with European enamel tiffins, tempts the curious visitor to the upper level of the house - a fascinating wedding chamber filled with treasures befitting the nuptial celebrations! European styled teak wardrobes with gold leafed Chinese designs are shelved with intan (rose cut) diamond jewellery, finely embroidered kebayas (blouses), handpainted batik sarongs (skirts) and rows of intricate kasut manek (beaded slippers).

Visits to The Intan conclude with tea sessions and dinners featuring authentic and delectable Peranakan cuisine prepared by Alvin's mother.

Creative programming
The Intan takes pride in designing imaginative and creative outreach programs such as:
•    Project Intan - Into its 5th year in 2012, this is an annual charity fundraising event where young musicians are trained to perform traditional music while audiences are served time-honoured authentic homemade food to celebrate the occasion at the museum.
•    Transitions! - A site specific play staged against the rich setting at The Intan, appropriately produced in collaboration with local college students addressing the younger generation confronting their personal views of their culture.
•    Children's Season - A series of children workshops around the island focusing on the 5 senses, in so doing highlighting the food, art, fashion and music of the Peranakans.
•    The Collectors' Sale - Members of the public are invited to meet private collectors who share, educate and offer pieces from their personal collection for sale.
•    Caring for your Collection - A series of conservation clinics to help collectors care for their antiques.
•    A Peranakan Art Affair - An exhibition of Peranakan inspired works of art.

The Intan - challenges and the future
Space, manpower and resources. The Intan depends solely on the kind support of generous patrons and volunteers. As The Intan grows, professional services are required in areas such as marketing, copywriting and photography. There is also a need to address facilities for the elderly and young. Eventually, The Intan needs to produce a constant stream of events to entice visitors, while balancing its commercial goals versus community aspirations.

Meanwhile, Alvin aims to further develop his home-museum with progressive and inspired programs such as sponsoring plays and hosting distinctive initiatives such as jewellery exhibitions, art shows and charity violin recitals. Building on The Intan concept, Alvin aspires to contribute to ad hoc consultancy and design work focusing on all things Peranakan. "Having an understanding of one's past stands him in better stead for the future," explains Alvin of his enthusiasm for The Intan. True to its vision, The Intan continues to sparkle and celebrate all things Peranakan, while contributing to the community and inspiring individuals to realise their own dreams!


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