Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Huo Ran

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!

Huo Ran is a 2nd Year MA Student majoring in Southeast Asian Studies at Peking University and our 4th intern from the IARU Global Internship Programme. NUS Museum has been welcoming interns from this programme for the past 4 years and we look forward to welcoming more in the future.


I read about the IARU internship opportunity at NUS Museum on the website of my home university - Peking University. As a Southeast Asian Studies major, I immediately felt that this opportunity was right for me: NUS Museum has various exhibitions on Southeast Asian art and history (e.g., Camping and Tramping through Colonial Archive-The Museum in Malaya) and Singapore is a place I have always wanted to visit.


It has been almost four weeks since I have been here, interning at the museum. This is definitely the first time that I received the opportunity to be in intimate touch with a museum, and now I can tell how marvellous the world is behind the artefacts that we usually see in a museum. At first I was basically going through all the brochures and catalogues of NUS Museums exhibitions, trying to familiarize myself with how things work in a museum. I was especially impressed by the works that previous interns had done here, how they had been laboriously reading through tons of annual reports, national archives, books, and materials to find information related to a person, or a certain topic. I was glad that I got to meet some of these interns, they were also kind enough to show me around and tell me about their experiences.

Then I was told by my supervisors that the museum is going to hold an exhibition- Semblance and Presence featuring two Filipino artists: Renato Habulan and Alfredo Esquillo. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard about this upcoming event because I happen to have spent five months in the Philippines and I have been to the church that was behind the lens of the artists (I will not spoil it for future audiences). The internship seems more related to my study than I expected. I had the honour to see the artworks, including photographs, videos and artefacts, in advance, to figure out how to demonstrate these works in front of audiences through and exhibition. The more I worked on the project, the more I felt that this may be the ultimate question for curators. Audiences are diverse, how can we bring out the intelligence and wisdom in them? I may not be able to give an answer, but working here in the museum has allowed me to reflect on question like these. I highly appreciate that.


I have been digging up library and online resources to find materials related to the exhibition. I have been reading all kinds of materials, many for the first time, for instance Nitzsche and Bakhtins carnivalesque theories. Honestly I never thought that organizing an exhibition involves so much research work - we gathered all the materials we could find, from different angles and perspectives. Now I understand how much effort curators put in an exhibition.


After selecting the text to display on the walls, here comes the fun part: lay-outing. It is such delicate work that it will make me pay more attention to the wall display from now on whenever I set foot in a museum. So far, these are some of the museological processes I have participated in, but that is just the beginning. I am very much intrigued by the world behind the exhibition, and simply glad to be part of it. 

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