Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Farah H. Sanwari

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Besides working hard and fast in their cubicles, our interns have travelled to Bandung and Malacca, organised symposiums, waded through tons of historical research and pitched in during exhibition installations. It was definitely no ordinary internship for them! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

Fresh back from a trip to Malacca, Farah H. Sanwari from the Department of Industrial Design at the NUS School of Design and Environment, recounts for us the events of the trip and her thoughts about all that has happened. Farah is currently an intern at the NUS Baba House.

This Monday marks the beginning of my 9th week as an intern at the NUS Museum and if there is one word that can express my experience thus far, it is ‘thrilling’! Much can be said about what I do as an intern here, including research, exhibition planning and set up and even a work trip to Melaka! And since I just came back from Melaka just a few days ago, I shall share mostly about my experience there.

I am currently helping out in the Asia Now! Southeast Asian Cosmopolitan Urbanism 2011 programme’s domesticity: Melaka in Flux exhibition. With the objective of having a comprehensive and coherent understanding of cosmopolitan urban heritage set in historical Melaka, this programme gives students who come from various academic fields the opportunity to explore through lectures, field work and collection of found objects. All these build up to a public display of their findings and analyses in an exhibition at the NUS Baba House.

Right at the beginning of this trip I was thrilled to observe curious young minds working together, making sense of their findings and observations of Melaka. They had already been there for a few days and had collected their artifacts. I find myself fortunate to be able to tag along one of the groups to join in in their discussions and pitch in ideas on how to present their topic. It was also useful that I had joined them for a day on their first day in Melaka the few days back to listen in to Dr. Widodo’s eye opening tour of Melaka. Now that Melaka has been selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Georgetown, the city has been subjected to much change, turning into a product of mass tourism. Naturally, with such an interesting change occurring to the city right before our very eyes, we had much to discuss about.

On the second day, the groups presented their themes and artifacts to a panel of critics. We were honoured with the presence of two guest critics, Mr Colin and Ms Josephine. They are native Malaccans who strongly advocate the preservation of the heritage of Melaka. I really admire their love and pride for their homeland and roots. They provided their insights and corrected misunderstandings of some of the groups. I was privileged to have been able to have a casual discussion with Ms Josephine about the racial tensions occurring in Malaysia for the past few years. Fortunately for Melaka, Ms Josephine said that the people of Melaka have always lived in harmony, and that the racial tensions are often politicized for the benefit of certain parties.

The next step for the students was actually to plan out a coherent and comprehensive exhibition to display their findings. Over the next few days, together with curator, Ms Foo Su Ling of NUS Baba House, we created a layout for the exhibition and also curated the collection of artifacts. There were also other groups in charge of other aspects of the exhibition including logistics, brochures and videos. Within a short period of time, they sure have lots to do! I clearly remember their pitiful tired faces at the end of the day. Nevertheless, they remarkably remained enthusiastic and constantly engaged in their work.

Overall, I had a wonderful time in Melaka working with the students. I have made many new friends in the process (from all over the world, may I add!) and have learnt so much about the cosmopolitan city of Melaka. Work is still in progress. Over the next few days, we will be busy setting up the exhibition in the Baba House. Last Friday was the exhibition opening and it was a success!


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