Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Janessa Zheng

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! 


Janessa is currently a JC1 student at Temasek Junior college. She joined the NUS Museum for three weeks as part of Temasek Junior College’s Work Attachment Programme. During her time here, Janessa was attached to the Museum Outreach team and assisted in various administrative works for the museum’s programmes.  In this blogpost, Janessa will share with us her reflection on some of the exhibitions in NUS Museum and the various museums visited.

The drawn line is a powerful tool of communication: on one hand, it is a device the artist relies on to direct the sight and thoughts of the viewer to his objective. Yet it can also impart glimpses into the artist’s creative imagination, even in a time of belligerence.

My 3 weeks here at the NUS Museum was certainly meaningful. Our mentor, Michelle, brought us on a tour around the museum. We also got to join a tour of the Baba House, and visit several other museums. We were not only exposed to curatorial strategies and the exhibits, we also got to help out at many outreach events. I got to learn a lot more about Southeast Asian Art history and about the programmes at the museum.

After exploring the Archaeology Library, I was intrigued by the Pulau Saigon collection. Prior to this, I did not know Pulau Saigon existed and found this collection to be really interesting. It is really puzzling how there were little records of how Pulau Saigon disappeared but yet, these pieces were a testimony that it once existed, and gives us insights to life on the island. There was also an exhibit on another floor, including a catalogue of everyday objects found at Pulau Saigon. These objects were 3D-printed by the artist Debbie Ding, who was interested to re-produce these objects from their names. It is very interesting how archaeology, which is thought to be discovering our history using ancient objects, is recreated with the 3D printed objects.

I thought the Nanyang Style watercolour paintings were really special. The Nanyang style of watercolour is a combination of techniques from Chinese and Western watercolour painting, with Nanyang landscape. This is very unique to our nation, and paints familiar landscapes which we can relate to, which is certainly impressive.

The exhibition LINES on Vietnamese war consisted of sketches by Vietnamese artists during the Vietnam War. Having been to Vietnam on the school’s Humanities Trip, this was different from what museums in Vietnam presented. This showcased the Vietnamese perceptions through art, with a variety of different mediums.

Radio Malaya- Abridged conversations about art
Valerie and I were tasked to help out with artist Amanda Heng’s performance art piece “Lets Chat”, and occasionally join in the conversations. Let’s Chat (1996) was a performance piece by artist Amanda Heng during which she invited the audience to sit and chat with her at a table while drinking tea and cleaning bean sprouts. The aim was to encourage the audience to rediscover the simpler joys of kampong life and examine the costs of material progress in Singapore. We even got the opportunity to talk to the artist herself, who shared with us on her take on the arts scene in Singapore. This highlighted to me, the importance of the art scene in Singapore, and how vibrant it actually is. It is also interesting to explore history and politics through drawings, paintings, poetry and other forms of works.

We also went to visit some of the museums around Singapore, including National Gallery, National Museum, and Asian Civilisations Museum. At the Asian Civilisations Museum, there was a gallery on the Tang Shipwreck. As the NUS Museum is also displaying some objects from the Tang Cargo, it is interesting to see the different curatorial strategies different museums adopt.

I had a great time here and would like to thank Michelle, for being very nice and patient, guiding us in our work and giving us many opportunities to participate and help out in the various events. I would also like to thank Wardah, the other interns, and staff for being so warm and welcoming towards us, making our experience here a very enjoyable one!


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