Eagles at the Asian Civilisations Museum
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There are two black eagles made of cast iron, which stand at the entrance to the Asian Civilisation Museum at 45 Armenian Street. The eagles were part of Tao Nan School which occupied the school's premises between 1910 and 1982. They were first captured in photographs in 1932 but is believed to have been part of the school much earlier. When Tao Nan was relocated to Marine Parade, the eagles moved along with the school but with plans to preserve the old school building at Armenian Street, the birds were brought back in 1996 to its original location.
The eagles located at the entrance to the Asian Civilisations Museum at 45 Armenian Street had some significance when the building had been the location of the Tao Nan School. The school occupied the colonial building for seven decades before moving out in 1982. It was during its occupancy that the school had the eagles erected. When they were first placed there is still a mystery. A picture of the school with the eagles at its entrance, dated 1932, is believed to be the first pictorial evidence of the existence of the eagle statues. In 1996, they were estimated to be around 70 years old. Initial research by the National Heritage Board revealed some possible reasons for their placement at the school. Its presence may have given an awe-inspiring touch to the facade of the building as birds of prey were regarded as guardians against bad luck. Moreover, the Chinese word for eagle - ying - is the same character used for the word jing-ying or "elite", a possible reference to the potential which the students were believed to hold. When the Tao Nan School moved to its new building in 1982, the two eagles went with it. In 1996, at the request of the National Heritage Board, the school agreed to return the pair of eagles to the old site (which now houses the Asian Civilisations Museum).
Each eagle is made of black cast iron and weighs approximately 200 kg. Taiwanese sculptor and conservator, Mr Chern Lian Shan, was specially commissioned to restore them in 1996. The restoration of the birds took three months in which Mr Chern worked with museum conservators on ways to remove the old, existing layers of paint. He sandblasted the old paintwork to show the weak areas in the sculptures where there was rust and where gaps had formed between different parts. After removing the rust and smoothening out the holes with putty, the eagles were repainted black. Dr James Khoo, Chairman of the Asian Civilisations Museum Board, noted that the eagles, as symbols of excellence at the Tao Nan School, should be maintained at the museum.
Ho, J. (1997, April 3). Down memory lane at old Tao Nan school. The Straits Times, Life! p. 8.
Peralta, C. (1996, November 22).The eagles have landed back at the old Tao Nan building. The Straits Times, Life, p. 9.
Foo, A., & Tham, W. M. (1997). Collecting memories: The Asian Civilisations Museum at the old Tao Nan School. Singapore: National Heritage Board.
(Call no.: SING 372.95957 COL).
The former Tao Nan School preservation guidelines (vol. 1). (1988). Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FOR)
The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.