Friday, 16 August 2013

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Mizrahi bin Maszenan

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. If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

For the summer of 2013, we have a total of 9 interns at the museum! Each intern will be taking it in turns to contribute an article to the Museum Blog every other week. For daily (or even hourly!) sneak peeks at what they are doing, visit the Museum's Twitter account (@nusmuseum). 

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Mizrahi bin Maszenan is currently a second year History major at the NUS Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. He interned with the Outreach department, working to initiate collaborations with campus student groups, managing the Malaya Black & White film screening series and assisting in Outreach activities.

The end of my summer internship at the NUS Museum is drawing to a close. As an Outreach intern responsible for planning and coordinating events, I surmise that the experience has been one that is fulfilling and enriching. To keep things short, there are three reasons why my internship at the museum has been unforgettable. Let me sum it up into three words: realising your potential.


While I came into the museum with the hope of trying something unrelated to my scope of study (I’m a history major), I did not keep such hopes high. Of course, I didn’t expect to find a new niche or discover a novel talent. The museum is small after all. However, a word of caution for future interns: do not underestimate the museum. The NUS Museum has helped realise my potential by giving me a holistic experience that any intern desires for. An experience which encompasses the three following aspects: social networking; exposure; and initiative.

Meeting new people

One of the primary responsibilities of an outreach intern is liaising with student bodies and external parties interested in conducting events in the museum. As such, I worked with event organizers from Prince George's Park Residences, NUS Press and the NUS History Society (I also happen to belong to its publication subsidiary – Mnemozine). I was surprised at how little I knew of the entire society apart from the editorial committee. In fact, one of the organizers was an acquaintance who sat next to me in a history class last semester. Yet I didn’t know his name.

 Hanging out with the HISSOC chaps at one of their stations in the museum

Likewise, I managed to interact with academics and experts in archaeology and history. I remember helping Dr John Miksic carry his artefacts to his car. We talked about his findings at the Istana Kampong Glam and his hopes for more undergraduates pursuing archaeology. On another occasion, a visiting professor from Washington University spoke to me about his research on religious relations in Myanmar. This was after he asked me whether I had taken a module by a close friend of his in NUS, Prof Maitrii. Talk about expanding your social circle!


Attending a workshop on excavation findings conducted by Dr John Miskic

Exposure

The internship program is structured and gives the interns a fair degree of exposure to the other departments that make up the museum. You may have read this from the earlier entries by the other interns. I too thank Lawrence and Mustafa for their conservation workshop and guided tour respectively. Both events have sparked a greater appreciation and interest for artworks. I am now better attuned in interpreting the historical value they carry.

Initiative

Here is the highlight of my internship. If people were to ask me what I enjoyed the most during my internship, it would be contributing to the Malaya Black and White Film Sceening series. This opportunity combined my passion for history with film. Part of my job scope was to assist my supervisor, Trina, in sourcing for new films to feature. Initially, I was tasked to look for copies of the films that had been shortlisted or to find as many films that were shot in Malaya or depicted it. Eventually, the list became exhaustive and I felt that there was a need to be more specific and disciplined in my research. Likewise, I wanted to be able to critic and offer my own opinions to these films- things which excite us historians.  I wanted to get intimate with my work rather than to keep it a platonic affair.

In light of these endeavours, P.roverbial Ramlee was conceived. Of course this would not have been possible without Trina's encouragement towards my individual pursuits. Not forgetting Mustafa and Fiona for their recommended readings on classic Malay films. Be sure to check out my online curatorial project at http://malayablackandwhite.wordpress.com/proverbial-ramlee/ 

It will shed some light to the prodigious works of the actor comedian and social critic!


Talking about the Malaya Black & White Film Series to our guests (R)


Moving on

On hindsight, there is this much to absorb in the past ten weeks. It also depends on how receptive the individual is keen to learn. There were times when I made blunders but my supervisors were there to give me advice. Rarely did I feel that my presence was ephemeral. I was kept in the loop of developments and meted with tasks with explicit constraints in a close working environment. This departed well with my past experiences in the civil service. I was aware of the weight of my contributions, always aiming to surpass my own expectations. This is what I mean by realizing your potential.

I could have gone on to inflate my experience by saying that I am now inspired to become a champion for heritage conservation. But I choose to present it as it is - realizing my potential. It is the one thing any intern would ask for when looking for a viable internship programme. The NUS Museum family has spurred me to give the utmost best in my undertakings. It is a family that listens to you, nurtures you and accommodates to your interests and strengths.

And no matter which career path I choose, this is a family I will never forget. 

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