Friday, 27 June 2014

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Chen Junni

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. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

For Summer 2014, we have 6 undergraduate interns working with the curatorial and outreach teams, conducting research into the Museum's collections as we prepare for our upcoming Resource Gallery, the new T.K. Sabapathy Collection of books and artworks, the archaeological sherd collection housed in the Sherd Library as well as conceptualising and running Outreach events at the Baba House and the NUS Museum! 

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Chen Junni is going onto her third year of studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Science's Communications and New Media Department. Junni joined us as a Resource Gallery Curatorial Intern, working in tandem with our curatorial and collections team to prep for the Museum's upcoming Resource Gallery and Library (to open in 2015).

For seven weeks, I was a Resource Gallery Curatorial Intern at the NUS Museum. During these seven weeks, my conceptions about working in a museum and the art of curating (it is very much an art by itself- as much as the art it serves to care for) expanded and became even more sophisticated and nuanced than before.


As a Resource Gallery Curatorial Intern, I worked with curators at the Museum. One of my first realisations was the fact that curating is very much driven by research, and that the research can begin as early as one year ahead of the exhibition opening. The Museum is, by itself, a huge mine of information- countless books and catalogues, pamphlets and binders are scattered throughout the premises, making the Museum a huge database centre by itself. The fact that the up-and-coming Resource Gallery will have a library will prove to be a useful addition to the Museum, consolidating all the materials relevant to the topics explored in the Resource Gallery and throughout the Museum. Much of my work centred around utilising much of the resources that we had - books, online databases, old newspaper clippings carefully gathered by the staff previously. Through researching, I had the chance to explore many of the histories that the NUS Museum discusses in its various galleries. I had the chance to delve deeper into the history of Chinese art and its impressive, high-class beginnings (art in Ancient China was largely the domain of the imperial and elite, until it slowly trickled down to museums and private collections), to explore Indian art and uncover the sophistication behind its design, and most importantly, to uncover the history of art in Singapore itself. One of the best research projects I had was researching the lives of pioneer and second-generation artists in Singapore and their art, and to consider the art that they produced against the backdrop of what was happening in Singapore at that point in time.


Besides research, curatorial methods were also something I explored over the course of the seven weeks in the museum. As the eight-month long Curating Lab was underway during part of my internship, I had the chance to sit in on two Curating Lab lectures, one given by Latitudes, a curatorial team from Spain, and the other by artist-curator-writer Hemen Chong. Listening to the exhibitions they had curated gave me an idea of the different curatorial strategies employed. In conversations with my own supervisor, I became exposed to the broad ideas and theories behind curating. These conversations and lectures proved to further shape my ideas about curating, the relationship between artist and curator, as well as that of the museum as an institution and the curator.

Alongside research, I also had a brush with the craziness that goes on during exhibition installations. The exhibition "When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks..." | Stories of Wood by The Migrant Ecologies Project - opened in mid-June. In the last-minute rush to get everything prepared in time, some of us interns were roped in to help with the display of newspaper and other archive material on the walls. Seeing the curators and artist, Lucy Davis, working hard together to realise their exhibition showed us the immense amount of legwork everyone had to put in when it comes to the physical installation of the exhibition!


All in all, I was very grateful to have been surrounded by interns who worked hard and offered their support and companionship, and also for NUS Museum to have given us so many opportunities to learn many different things. Although I have only covered learning about curating, the truth is that we learnt much more. Events such as the Baba House visit and various curatorial tours gave me a glimpse into the past and art's place in our history, public memory and society. It was truly a meaningful internship. 





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