We Found Love at the Museum

By on Feb 2017


Image source: Salleh bin Abdul Karim


For many, museums are stoic repositories of knowledge and institutions of art, culture and history. They are places to head to for inspiration and knowledge, sites of architectural marvel and tourist attractions. Of all the things that museums have a reputation for, finding love does not rank high.

In the case of Salleh bin Abdul Karim, who is in his 30s and has been working with the National Museum of Singapore since 2007, the museum was simply a place for work. All that changed when Massanisah binte Maskamis joined the museum in 2010.

Recalling their first meeting vividly, it was love at first sight for Salleh when Massanisah dropped by the museum to recce her new workplace with a friend. On her first day at work, he admitted to “walking out of the small shared office feeling awkward and shy around the new girl”.

Two months into their first introduction, the pair found themselves working on the same shift at the counter, and Salleh seized his opportunity. With 2G phones and text messages being the norm in those days, Salleh found a creative way to capture her attention.

“I keyed in a text message on my phone, then a Nokia E52, and left it near the ticketing area, hoping that she will see the phone and message. After much gesturing to her, she finally saw the message. But I never got my reply,” he joked.

In actual fact, she did, but instead of replying on the phone, Massanisah agreed to his date in person. It turned out to be a memorable one for all the right reasons, as she recounted: “It just felt right and I knew he was the one. He is just different, and also a total gentleman!”



Image source: Salleh bin Abdul Karim


The National Museum may have started out as a workplace, but it is also became where the couple found a soulmate in each other.

Taking teamwork to a whole new level, their ever-supportive colleagues did their best to play matchmakers. Massanisah said: “They wanted us to be together! My whole team knew that we liked each other so they used to put in good words about him to me. The boldest move was when one of our ex-team managers asked Salleh to propose to me, in front of everyone.”

And propose he did. Not once, but twice.

“Yes, he did after my manager pressured him to do so. But he proposed to me again after, privately, at the Singapore Flyer,” she said with a laugh. Massanisah accepted the proposal and in 2011, the lovebirds were engaged.

With marriage on the cards, choosing the location for their wedding photoshoot was a no-brainer. The picturesque National Museum may be a popular photo spot with its iconic architecture and classic features, but for Salleh and his wife, it was a natural choice with deep meaning for their relationship.

Salleh shared, “When the photographer asked us where we wanted to go for our outdoor shoot, the museum came to mind. It was not really the norm to take wedding photos at the museum then but we didn’t really consider other locations. The museum was appropriate since it was where we had met, and where our love story began.”

Museum just like a second home

Married for four years now and a father to a two-year-old daughter and three-month-old son, the love that Salleh has for his wife remains palpable. During this interview, he affectionately praised her baking skills and cited her birthday as a date that he always remembers.

It is perhaps out of modesty that he described himself as not a romantic person, although he qualified that “it is hard not to be when you are with that special someone”.

Having worked at the museum together for more than five years , the National Museum of Singapore has become second home for the couple, and it was easy to feel a sense of family when Massanisah delivered her first child. She related: “When our child was born, everyone congratulated us and most of them gave us angpaos. My team member even gave us a pram.”

The couple used to bring their first-born to work regularly, though such trips are less frequent now with heavier work responsibilities. Nonetheless, Salleh maintained that the museum continues to feature significantly in the family’s lives and they will bring their children to visit more often. “The museum is a good learning institution that showcases Singapore’s history and culture as well as contemporary art exhibitions and installations. The building is also one of Singapore’s architectural icons.”

Most importantly, he emphasized, it is where his own story of “How I met your mother” began.