Monday, August 20, 2012

Make a date with a museum guide when you visit Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine

Marvellous. A reproduction of a pectoral from the 4th century BCE.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

What makes gold such a sought-after precious metal? I did not have much of a clue until I visited the exhibition, Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine earlier this year. While artifacts made from iron have corroded over time, artifacts made from gold could retain its shiny lustre even after many centuries. The significance of gold probably lies in its physical qualities of durability, incorruptibility and rarity.

Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine which is held at the National Museum of Singapore will be ending on 26 Aug 2012. This exhibition was possibly organized to celebrate twenty years of diplomatic ties between Ukraine and Singapore. The collection on display at this exhibition is on loan from the National Museum of the History of Ukraine and the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine. 

A brilliant Gorytus cover from the 4th century BCE.
A gorytus was a bow and quiver case.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

When I had first visited the exhibition on 28 May 2012 during the launch of the exhibition, I was most impressed by the excellent craftsmanship. Even as early as 8th century BCE, the gold techniques that were used were already very remarkable. In addition, somehow, I was drawn to the idea of visiting Ukraine after attending the exhibition.

Sword and scabbard with boar head.
4th century BCE (Scythians).
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

However, during my first visit to the exhibition, I was pretty overwhelmed by the collection of 260 pieces of jewellery, weapons, coins, household and religious artifacts that were on display. I have had no clue how to make sense of the entire exhibition. 

Thankfully, on my third visit to the exhibition on 28 Jul 2012, I had the pleasure to attend one of the guided tours by one of museum guides. This gave me a better overview to the entire exhibition as well as a glimpse of the history of the area which is now present day Ukraine.

My wonderful guide shared with me and the other visitors on the guided tour a brief history of present day Ukraine. I could better picture the location of Ukraine on the world map. He also shared with us the diplomatic ties that exist between Singapore and Ukraine. Thanks to the diplomatic ties, the residents in Singapore can enjoy a glimpse of Ukraine's heritage right here in Singapore.

A stele.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

The first exhibit in the exhibition features a stone stele from 6th century BCE. Across Central Asia in antiquity, it was a common practice to place such stone steles on the top of burial mounds known as kurgans. Thanks to wikipedia, I learnt that kurgans are mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Subsequently, the first section of the exhibition revealed to us more artifacts that were found in Scythian burial grounds. The Scythians were a group of people who had dominated the Pontic-Caspian steppe from about the 7th century BCE.

The gold plaques on the vessels are original, although the organic parts of the vessels such as the horn of the Rhyton (drinking horn) were reconstructed. Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

During my first visit to the exhibition, I was struggling to appreciate the various nomadic groups of people who have lived in the region near the Black Sea. Admittedly, I am still rather confused by the descriptions on the various nomadic groups of people who have lived in the region. Thankfully, after attending one of the guided tours, I realized that as long as I have appreciated that there were various nomadic groups of people who have lived in and interacted with one another in the region near the Black Sea, I would have gotten the quite a bit out of my visits to the exhibition.

Medallion. From the early to mid 12th century CE (Byzantine) period.
This medallion is said to be possibly bearing the image of a warrior saint, Theodore.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

The next section of the exhibition shared about the lives of the settlers. I learnt that the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity in Kyivan Rus' has in some ways encouraged the nomads in the region to choose to live as settlers instead. I was attracted to some of the artifacts in this section.

Gospel in silver casing.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

The final section of the exhibition showcases gold from the Southeast Asia and Singapore. It also lends visitors an appreciation to the development of gold-smithing and the flourishing of goldsmith shops in 20th century Singapore. I was rather attracted to an exhibition panel that discusses the unit of purity (carat) for gold alloys. The tour group started discussing about purple gold. Purple gold is actually a gold alloy that composed of about 80% pure gold and 20% of other metal components. Our diligent tour guide also shared with us why it may be necessary to add other metal components into gold in some situations.

A peep into the development of gold-smithing in Singapore.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

Classical Javanese Gold.
Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine.

Finally, after the guided tour, I could better appreciate what the exhibition was about. If schedule permits, please make a date with one of the museum guides and attend the guided tour.

I had rented one of the audio guides during my second visit to the exhibition as well. The audio guides are available for rent at $3 each. While the audio guides are very informative, I personally prefer the guided tour because it gave me a clearer overview of the exhibition. Furthermore, I could ask the tour guide questions! However, if for some reasons the free guided tour of the exhibition is not available during your visit, the audio guide is possibly the next best way to better appreciate this exhibition.

National Museum of Singapore
93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
29 May - 26 Aug 2012
10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Tickets are priced at S$11 (includes SISTIC handling fees)

Details of guided tour can be found here:

Please take note:

On 20 Aug 2012, admission to this exhibition and the rest of the National Museum of Singapore is free.

In addition, from 21 - 26 Aug 2012, entry to Gold Rush: Treasures of the Ukraine is at a discounted rate of S$6 for all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. Source:

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