Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Ng Bi Ru

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. At NUS Museum, each internship is as different from the last. If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

Ng Bi Ru is a 2nd-year Economics Major from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at NUS. She joined NUS Museum as an Outreach Intern, focusing on in-campus and student life outreach projects.

This is the first internship which I applied for and truth to be told, many of my friends and family asked me why I signed up for this internship when I am an Economics Major. I gave many different answers but the most common one I gave was because I had experience working in another heritage institution and thought that my job scope as as Outreach Intern at NUS Museum would be similar however; they proved to be worlds apart.

Michelle orientated me to the workplace as well as the people in the first week. Firstly, I had to familiarise myself with the museum's on-going exhibitions and outreach programmes. As its name suggest, Outreach Programmes aims to reach out to people, particularly university students to increase their awareness of the museum.  Reading these brochures gave me a better idea of what the museum does, knowledge that was crucial for me to organise and execute outreach activities effectively.

My second task was to take charge of the MOE Humanities Educators’ Conference (HEC) Booth for NUS Museum. HEC took place on the 30th and 31st May at Raffles Institution. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase NUS Museum's exhibitions and collections and raise the educator's awareness of  the museum's school programmes which may further aid in students’ learning. In order to help educators identify an exhibition that is suitable for their syllabus, I researched on the MOE Syllabuses for humanities subjects, mainly History and Social Studies, and matched them to the contents of the current or upcoming exhibitions. I also worked on  creating a slide show and also coordinate with conference organisers to planning the booth's logistics.

The time spent at the conference was an eye-opener for me. Though it is similar to my past experiences of manning Co-Curriculum Activities (CCA) booths in the way that they are all aimed at attracting “audiences”, this posed a significantly larger challenge because it is no longer just a mindless task of cajoling people to join my CCA, this demanded logical persuasion and a strong foundation of knowledge about NUS Museum.

As my previous jobs have been pretty much hand held by senior colleagues, I find the experience of working independently very refreshing and challenging. Being able to man the booth has also provided me with opportunities to interact and work with people as well as to learn about the general opinion that the public has of the museum. These information are important for an outreach team in order generate more ideas about how to reach out to a larger visitor pool. This opportunity in itself fulfills my initial objective of applying for an internship to experience work significantly different from other temporary jobs.

Besides the planning of the booth, I was also involved in some of the events that NUS Museum had in the month of May. One of them was a talk which is part of the Maintaining Heritage Series: The Material Culture ofBukit Brown Cemetery by Dr. Lai Chee Kien, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, NUS. This talk attracted over a 100 people from all walks of life and what impressed me the most are the older people who turned up. If I were to hazard a guess, it is perhaps that they have a memory of the Bukit Brown Cemetery so special that made them travel all the way to the museum just to learn more about it. This truly touched my heart and made me realized that the preservation of heritage sites should not be restricted to mere collections of artifacts and photographs, instead we should try to keep these places untouched because the older generations still hold them very dearly to their hearts.

Another outreach activity that NUS Museum regularly organizes are guided school tours. On 22 May 2012, almost 200 students from NUS High School visited the museum and I was given the task of crowd control, giving me the chance to move around the museum and to “eavesdrop” on Joan and Michelle as they gave guided tours of our exhibition every once in a while. I was told that this visit is one of the largest groups that the museum ever had. Even though some of the students were pretty distracted, many were intrigued by our collections as well as the stories behind them. The teachers also played a great role in coordinating their movement and some even expressed disappointment as they are not able to visit the entire museum due to time constraint. 

This post captures some of my experiences in this museum,  there are many more which I enjoyed and wished that I can pen down here. At the end of this month, I am glad that I did not listen to my family and friends for it would mean trading off all of these opportunities. 


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