Monday, 4 March 2013

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Nurul Syazwani

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!

Nurul Syazwani is a 4th year Southeast Asian major from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


Museums has always been a space that intrigues me because it morphs over time without losing the semblance of continuity. The opportunity to intern with NUS Museum was not only a learning process but also an eye-opener. Rather than seeing museums as they are, this internship allowed me to have a feel of how things are “behind-the-scene”.

The experience of working within the museum is one that I can never forget as I had the chance to spend more time at the gallery than I otherwise would. Looking through the details of the exhibitions, for instance the collated documents from the colonial era, made me reflect on how much effort is put into sorting, selecting and assembling the contents of the display. As such, I am able to better appreciate the human effort that keeps a museum functioning.


Under the guidance of my supervisor, I was also able to glimpse specifically into the history and developments of museums in Singapore. The main one was of the former Art Gallery at the National Museum. The research work also allowed me to better understand the roles of curators and to track the tireless efforts of a prominent Singaporean art historian. The biography of the individual art historian, namely Constance Sheares, was extraordinary as she helped to fill in the gaps in Singapore’s art history by sourcing for the works of contemporary artisans that was added to the then National Museum Art Gallery collection. Her opinions on the need to train more art historians, curators, conservators and the likes was also frequently reported on in the local newspapers. To find all these details, I spent the six weeks of my internship at various places to find the various sources.


During the six weeks, my time was divided between libraries, sifting through newspaper articles, museum catalogs, online databases and books. I was able to also learn more about Southeast Asian textiles such as batik and ikats through the written works of Constance Sheares. The various archival materials and documents allowed me to trace the works of an individual who has shaped and moulded the visions of past exhibitions. The contributions she made and its spillover effects on the art appreciation of the masses in Singapore definitely left me in awe. The internship had been a fruitful learning process and I can now better understand how the museum functions.

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