Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Sheena Koh

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! 


Sheena Koh is a third-year English Literature student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As an Education Outreach Intern, Sheena was tasked to conduct various researches and assist with the museum’s programmes which provided her with greater insight to the museum's outreach operations.

As I type this, the fact that it’s my last day as an intern at the Museum has just started to sink in. In a couple of hours, my desk will be pristine. I will squirrel away the stacks of books and papers that litter my desk, and it will be as though I had never been there. But if there’s one thing I learnt from my time here, it’s that meaning often resides in the space between, rather than merely within what is said. My eventual absence then only signifies the presence of experience, of learning, of having been. And even though I’ve only spent a month here, I think I’m all the better for it. 

Before I launch into an epic-length recitation of my time here, here’s the tl;dr for those of you who are reading this because you can’t decide if you should apply or not: this internship will challenge you, but you will also learn lots, so just fill in the application form already!

Also, internship perks: free tickets to the Biennale!

And here’s the long story long:

I came into this internship with some art history background and arts/education working experience. When I started, I was attached to the education outreach team. As an intern, I spent my time proofreading and editing copy, as well as compiling databases and conducting research into various organisations and ideas related to the art scene in NUS and Singapore. At the same time, I was involved in preparing materials for MUSES 2017, a future museum education resource and a gallery guide for the Radio Malaya exhibition (opens 17 Jan 2016).

Although these projects took up the bulk of my month here, I have to say that I really enjoyed working on them. I applied for this internship programme because I wanted to sustain my involvement in art theory and education, areas that I had touched on in my summer internship as well as the previous semester in school. These projects enabled me to do just that.

Of particular note is the gallery guide project. In my iteration of the internship, it just so happened that the Radio Malaya exhibition was slated to open in January 2017. In order to increase interdisciplinary engagement with the show, the other interns and I were tasked to create a gallery guide in accordance with our own research interests. Initially, I found this project daunting – I wasn’t sure where to begin, and if my ideas were of any good. This was disorientating to say the least, especially after years in goal-driven academic environments. Yet, working on this guide gave me the push I needed to discover, experiment and basically, to enjoy the process of learning and researching for its own sake. And this was how I spent my December reading volumes of poetry by Arthur Yap and Boey Kim Cheng, as well as papers on the particular complexities of multiculturalism and identity formation in Singapore.

As you can see, while there were guidelines for the projects, they were largely self-directed. I enjoyed the kind of hands-off learning that I went through at the museum, and I really appreciated and enjoyed the level of freedom that I was afforded in this internship. However, this is not to say that it was unstructured – rather, it was the opposite. Even though I independently conceptualised and designed my projects, Michelle, my supervisor and Outreach Manager of the Museum would often check in on my progress and offer valuable suggestions for improvement. I am grateful for the guidance extended to me by everyone in the office, and of course, my fellow interns.

On this note, I’d like to reassure those of you who are still reading (thanks!) that this internship isn’t
all about work, but also about the people you meet! I think my internship would have been a lot less enjoyable and thought-provoking had it not been for my fellow interns and colleagues at the Museum. Being heritage/arts/culture geeks, we’re like-minded in many ways, and in the course of our one short month together, we’ve explored exhibitions and museums, as well as food spots on campus, while talking about everything from the history of opium to TV shows. 

The Four Interns ™ hard at work listening to Georgina, a curator at NLB bringing us through the Script & Stage exhibition

Imbalanced height distribution aside, here we are with the Outreach Team and Georgina :-)


I could not ask for a more enriching experience in the field of the arts. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to develop my interests in art, education and museology in this creative, vibrant and welcoming space.

Come Monday, I’ll be in an anonymous lecture theatre somewhere in school – so, not too different from the semester I just left. But in this month between, an intermediary space, I have found meaning, and much to be grateful for. 

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