Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Charmaine Lee

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! 


Charmaine 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. In this post, Charmaine shares with us her experience studying and understanding our exhibitions and cataloging our NUS Museum's Resource Library.

Prior to my attachment at NUS Museum, I confess that I had no idea how a museum worked or what they did, besides displaying art for visitors to see. As someone with little to no experience dealing with the arts before, I remember feeling a little apprehensive when I first stepped into the museum, worried that I would not be of much help or that I would not feel welcome. At the end of my attachment, I can gladly say that my experience at NUS Museum was one that I did not expect, but more importantly, it was one that was unforgettable.

I remember, on the first day of attachment, the first thing I saw was the exhibition, ‘Radio Malaya’. I clearly recall how confused I was when I walked around the exhibition with my fellow friends from TJC. I was looking for captions, explanations of the artworks or some story to the exhibition, but instead, I found none. Before, whenever I visited a museum, I would wander around with my brain on low-power mode, not stopping to think past the aesthetics of the art pieces displayed. I never tried to understand or view the exhibition in my own light, and thus, I had a lot of trouble trying to make meaning of this exhibition.

Only over time at the NUS Museum did I begin to understand why the exhibition was constructed in this way. Through my experience here, I learned to actively analyse and question whatever was being displayed, and to always ask ‘Why?’. Learning more about the purpose and intent of museums allowed me to grow and see museums in a different light, and I believe that my experience here will also in turn, change my experiences in the future when I visit other museums as well.

I also remember my time spent in the Resource Library of the Museum, cataloguing books with my fellow schoolmates. This was another first for me, as I had never tried cataloguing books in my entire life. Through the cataloguing of books over the course of my attachment, I can say that I learnt a great deal about perseverance and diligence in my work. Of course, at times, cataloguing felt tiring and boring, and I would feel restless as I did my work, but through sheer determination to get the job done, we could see our efforts turn into results. This gave me a window into life in the working world, allowing me to apply the skills I learnt in the future as well.

In my short time spent in NUS Museum, I felt that I gained more than what I could give the museum due to my inexperience. But I will always remember NUS Museum for the fun times it gave me, be it the laughs we shared during the cataloguing of books, to the ‘trips’ to the Asian Civilisation Museum and the National Library, and the new friends I made in my time there. To most, the NUS Museum is just a place. But to me, it is a fond memory, a learning experience, and a place where I know I belong.


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