Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Timothy Chua

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!

Timothy Chua is an alumni of Anglo-Chines School (Independent) and will be matriculating to a university this coming August.

My four weeks at NUS Museum has quickly come to an end. In retrospect, the internship has been a memorable, worthwhile experience. During my time here, I was attached to Mr Shabbir HussainMustafa, a curator at the museum, to assist in the curatorial and administrative aspects of his work. One of my main responsibilities was to arrange and account for the source material of the 14 binders from the Camping and Tramping through the Colonial Archive: The Museum in Malaya exhibition. The process was tedious and repetitive at times, yet the level of accuracy and precision required during the task impressed on me the high degree of professionalism expected of curators. The extensive research on colonial archives found in the binders was also very impressive.

Listening to Mr Mustafa’s captivating presentation of the Camping and Tramping through the Colonial Archive: The Museum in Malaya exhibition to a group of NUS students was another highlight of my internship. He spoke with clarity, passion and was thoroughly engaging. Having viewed the exhibition and worked with the source materials two weeks prior, the presentation from the curator himself was timely and refreshing. I began to see the level of depth accorded to every detail of the exhibition, right up from why certain historical figures were introduced within the exhibition down to the exact positioning of the objects in the exhibition. All these revelations allowed me to appreciate the role of a curator better; of the potential for the curator’s conceptual vision to inspire and engage the audience, and of curator’s responsibility in handling history in all honest conviction and sensitivity.

Another task assigned to me was the compilation of references for an exceptionally unique, yet somewhat less renowned artist named Mohammad Din Mohammad. The assignment allowed me to view and appreciate the philosophy and background of Mohammad Din Mohammad from a variety of sources, and also made me wonder why such a seminal figure in the history of Singapore art has received less recognition than he probably deserves. I was once again reminded of the responsibility of the museum as an institution to preserve and document people and events of the past, lest such significant figures disappear into the past.

My time in the museum, and working along Mr Mustafa in particular, has exposed me to various aspects of curatorship. It has been an enlightening experience, allowing me to cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of the roles and workings of the museum. I am now able to see the museum as not just a static display of artifacts, but also as a dynamic, fluid space of propositions and conceptual thought. My four weeks have been worthwhile and engaging, and I would like to thank Mustafa for his patience and candour in sharing his experiences, and the rest of the NUS Museum team for their friendliness and warmth throughout my time here.

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