Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Nicole Lin

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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Nicole Lin is a third-year English Literature student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. During her time as a NUS Baba House Outreach Intern, Nicole was involved in the daily operations and maintenance of the Baba House, and research and execution of programmes.



When I first applied for the internship I was expecting the typical internship experience, like shadow the curator, learn how they conducted research for exhibitions, behind the scenes preparation for events, and maybe attend a couple of talks on the mechanics of the museum as an institute. What I got out of the internship were all of these, and so much more.

Currently an undergraduate majoring in English Literature, my interest is in the ‘people’s’ literature. I am fascinated by the depth of culture that we can glean from these stories, and their society of the times built through the what is written, explicitly or not. Being accustomed to translating from words to reality, where my work revolves around writing the intangible concepts of life, the experience of working in the Baba House, amidst the physical landscape of such a rich peranakan culture, was truly amazing. To work in this recreation, which perfectly encapsulate the spirit of their times — a 1920 peranakan household and community — was like stepping into the text that I have always been so preoccupied with. And that is what the Baba House is exactly. The text of history is delineated in each and every carefully curated artefact in the heritage house. Understanding the stories behind the architectural features, aesthetics and layout of the house is at the same time like having an intimate understanding of the family of peranakans who lived there, as their desires and way of life quietly manifests in their surrounding crockery, accessories, furniture etc.


A Baba House pantun recited during our talk on Baba rhymes and verses

I did not glean all of these merely from the stack of readings Poonam and Michelle provided me the first day I stepped into my workplace. Rather it is through working with the Baba House team daily, through observing their meticulous care of the decade old house, their enthusiasm when interacting with the heritage tour visitors, and the extra step they never fail to take to preserve the culture in this society now that is so preoccupied with change and advancement.

The trips to various museums, art galleries, and artist lodges packed into our schedule during the internship were equally insightful. As the curators explained their exhibitions to us, or when we get lucky, the artists themselves would tell us the story of their art, the level and sense of appreciation walking through the exhibit was as if we now had the creator’s vantage itself.


Ongoing work on sketches for the annual Istana Art Event


Me with the other interns at the Baba House.

The internship allowed me to understand the museum through its groundwork, through participating in the concrete preparations, before the final grand product that we normally see as the eye-catching exhibition can become a reality. It also granted me the opportunity to converse with many inspiring curators, and learn from their way of work, especially from their intense demand for creating comprehensive displays of humanity and social concerns in their exhibits. Last and definitely not least, the 10 weeks working with the NUS museum team has left me thoroughly enamoured by, what I’d call, the museum culture — that all work and effort is ultimately crystallised in the core of the pedagogical museum itself. My final words would be to express my sincere thanks to the Baba House team, Poonam, Fadhly and Suling, and also the NUS Museum team who have been so compassionate and accepting of an amateur intern like me.

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