Monday, 22 February 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Chean Hui Tuan

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! 

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Chean Hui Tuan is currently pursuing her Master of Art in Curating at the University of Sydney. She joined the NUS Museum in December 2015 as the Archaeology Ceramics Research Intern, focused on developing a bibliography of glazed ceramics production in Myanmar.

‘Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.’ – Zora Neale Hurston

The above quote is a simple yet precise understanding of the nature of research work and spells the motivation behind choosing a seemingly lonely and strenuous career path. It was this sense of curiosity that prompted me to take up an internship with the NUS Museum and the 5 weeks experience is truly rewarding. Under Su Ling’s supervision, I was tasked to research on the ceramic production of Lower Myanmar and to draft a bibliography on the subject.

Image 1. The Map of Myanmar - My local companion throughout the course of research. 

I have to confess that prior to starting the internship, my knowledge of Myanmar was minimal – the fact that I could not recall Myanmar’s geographical location was an acknowledgement of my ignorance. The research work proved to be a challenging task as I progressed and more often than not, I reached a bottleneck and had to search for a new entry point. The challenge could be attributed to a lack of research and academic resource on the subject matter, but I suspect that my inability to read the Burmese language contributed to the self-imposed limitation and did not do justice to the research outcome. Spending the majority of my time in the library flipping through books and browsing the online database, I realised that one has to take an adventurous approach when researching on an ‘unpopular’ topic. Half of the books and articles that I have read might not be immediately relevant, but at times I managed to chance upon snippets of information that turned out to be crucial. It is fascinating to observe the formation of something potentially useful from all the work that I have done, even if it might not make sense at the first glance.

Image 2. My daily life. Reading and writing...more reading and writing.

I would like to thank Su Ling for her guidance throughout the internship and for patiently answering my questions and doubts during our weekly meetings. I was given the freedom to explore and to work at my own pace, but whenever I bumped into a hurdle or felt completely lost in the midst of research, it was comforting to know that she would be there to give great advices and help me move forward. I am also grateful to my fellow intern and partner in crime, Ignatius, for being so patient with me and listening to my endless grumbles. He had his fair share of difficulties in the Myanmar research and often I felt guilty of not helping him as much as he did for me.

I would also like to thank Michelle for arranging curatorial tours and reading programmes to enrich my internship experience and provide the platform for all interns to interact, which was really important for me since I was basically ‘absent’ and rarely had the chance to chat with them.  I find the reading programmes and discussions very helpful in terms of relating back to my own studies but in a local context. I am truly delighted to be acquainted with this fabulous group of people at the NUS Museum who are passionate with what they are doing and trying to make a difference to the Singapore art scene in their unique way. 

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