Friday, 23 February 2018

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Jolene Teo

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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Jolene Teo is a third-year History student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As our  Museum Archival Research Intern, Jolene researched on and compiled a bibliography of writings related to William Willetts, the second curator of the Art Museum in the University of Malaya, researching and compiling materials on the University of Malaya, as well as researching and compiling a bibliography of writings related to Roxanna Brown and Constance Sheares.  

Despite knowing close to nothing about William Willetts, the second curator of the Art Museum in the University of Malaya, I decided to challenge myself and applied to be a Research Assistant Intern for an upcoming lecture about him under NUS Museum to find out more about this figure. Being a History student, I wanted to try applying the skills I learnt in school to museum work and learning new things as well. As I was always interested in the arts, I wanted to explore the various roles played by the museum staff from curating an exhibit to the day to day running of a museum. Therefore, this internship was the best of both worlds for me and I applied for it without hesitation. 

I remember being completely lost on the first day and hitting several dead ends along the way, but it was certainly a fruitful journey of growth and perseverance. I started off reading several materials provided by the museum staff to get a brief overview of Willetts. Slowly, I started to branch off on my own and dug around NewspaperSG, National Archives, and visiting various libraries to find out more information. The museum staff have all been very friendly and helpful in answering our questions and letting us know what they do even if it was not related to what the interns were doing, so we were able to explore other areas as well. We also got a break from what we are doing by going on field trips or workshops to learn more about the museum itself and what they do. 

Picture of Baba House taken during the field trip.

Besides gathering information, I have to compile and reorganise it. I was constantly shifting around the organisation to view the various angles I could approach Willetts. I can now confidently say I am (almost) an expert in scanning and photocopying books and documents of various sizes with the photocopy machine. 

Hard at work trying to figure out the photocopy machine.


After gathering and organising information, I would have to present it to Ahmad, the Head of the Museum, which always made me slightly nervous because he was very strict. However, meetings with him were always very helpful, as he was always able to assess my work and prod me towards a new direction to progress in my research, look at other sources, or to expand on certain parts further. 


Finally, together with Ahmad and Michelle, I met Mr Kwa, who will be delivering the lecture. As a History student, I have read some of the things he has written and attended 2 of his guest lectures. Being an important and well-known figure, I was very worried my research was not up to Mr Kwa’s standards. After the initial nervous stammering however, we had a productive discussion about the lecture and how my research would slowly take shape. I was really relieved to be working under such supportive mentors and being able to voice my opinions despite being just an intern. 


Lastly, we wrapped up the internship by having presentations on object write-ups for some of the works in the museum we have written. This allowed us to contribute to the museum in some way, and try out visually analysing and writing about art works.

Picture of Wee Kong Chai’s painting Mother and Child, I had to do an object write-up for.

I am very excited to continue this project and see what else I can find out about Willetts, and how the lecture would turn out. It will be a challenge, but this experience has made me enjoy doing research and the excitement whenever I discover something new, making this process an enjoyable and enriching one for me. I would also like to thank Michelle, Ahmad, Mr Kwa, and the rest of NUS Museum staff for helping me throughout this winter internship and the upcoming months. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Johann Yamin

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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Johann Yamin is a third-year Communications and New Media student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, with a minor in Film Production and Art History. As our  Radio Malaya Exhibition Research Intern, Johann assisted with curatorial research and exhibition development for Radio Malaya: Abridged Conversations About Art, as well as consolidating research materials from the Vietnam War Art collection.



No neat beginnings, no neat endings. 

I come here to rearrange florets of information. Imagine knowledge being categorised, synthesised, consolidated, coagulated. Reified into physical stacks, neatly lined along a conference table in a fluorescent-lit room, scattered with the touch of a hand. I look for knowledge that has come before me, traces deposited: There are citations to be generated, bibliographies to be indexed, indexes to be bibliographed. Associations multiply meiotically while meanings unravel inconspicuously. 


I come here to propose more and more, as in, there will always be more, but what this is depends on what you want, so just go for it and don’t worry too much about it. More is needed still. Reach out for things you’ve not yet seen, searches combing wide swathes – time is spent over shelves, under the covers of books, scampering across categories in classification systems. You prise yourself between the leading of sentences and meander through spaces dividing words, cram through the kerning of letters.  

Look at pdfs and docxs accumulated, pay attention to their megabytes of information, how odd for the pdf to be neither image nor text. Consider their visuality: Information frozen in relative position on document, everything in its right place always and exactly. Push in on the document. Edges become jagged, indistinct, abstract. Pixels happily leap off into low resolution.

~ ~ ~ 



Each day, I push my palms against the textures of aged webpages, charting out urban sprawls of abandoned geocities, raptly tracing fingers along html frame dividers. As web browser histories grow lengthier and more intricate, discover how highres images of an artwork nosedive into lowres, splintering across the internet from the force of impact. Jpegs of art find themselves crawled over, scooped up, plastered to a website for interior design inspiration. “As it accelerates, it deteriorates.” 

Knowledge coquettishly prances just out of reach, arriving as a pulsating, glowing figure from beyond the screen. Sometimes it’s better to see things through a screen. Violent rectangles of light. Generate new threads, ideas unspooling, conceptualise skeins, tangle warp and weft. Everything falls through the fingers, and there is no need for a firm grasp. Again and again, note this happening. I allow my mind to be splayed open, and it begs to be interfaced.



~~~

I hover over a scanner, turning physical page to digital particulate. I marvel at how images transmute into text, made searchable by machine. Optical Character Recognition is a built-in function that occurs with the scanning of a document, the process wherein images of text, handwritten or otherwise, are identified and converted into machine-encoded text. Jagged pixellate edges coalesce into legible unicode forms, meaning sublimated from black etchings, saturating the air with a dark, pungent smell.  

As with many systems, it is not perfect. Recognition does not occur flawlessly, and errors emerge with impish regularity, a mischievous child scrawling with crayon on the wall behind the sofa. During Optical Character Recognition, the characters occasionally blur, melding into each other or fading into the grain of paper, numbers becoming letters, letters becoming other letters, and then becoming nonsense punctuation. The text becomes an abstracted version of its former self, an endearing attempt at coherence. Ins1ead ,','e f:nd oursclvcs lcf- vv:th t000 ,','ays :n vvh:ch a scntcncc ma) losc :ts or:g:nal-mcan:ng} 

Optical Character Recognition is the attempt to identify potential markers of meaning, hypostasising these signs into coherent and accessible systems of representation. I softly apply pressure as documents sensuously smoothen against the glass flatbed of the scanner, bodies of knowledge spread across a lustrous surface, anticipating permeation by shards of light. I feel like I may be falling in love with a ghost in a machine. 


~~~

17 Volcanoes

I want to tell you how things will go, I want to tell you how things will be. But we leave expectations and potential futures on an expired cloud storage subscription, forgetting they ever existed at all. Still, we celebrate the forgotten scraps of knowledge that dance in cached versions of obsolete webpages. We celebrate the tentacular reach of research to be done, of ideas to be generated. We celebrate that there are no neat beginnings, no neat endings. 

(A javascript music player begins to play lixianglan_xinqu_李香兰_心曲_1957.mp3) 
 (An embedded video montage entitled Memories begins to unfold in your head) 

(This blog post slips away into a swamp of hypertext links, disappearing from sight) 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Ho See Wah

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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Ho See Wah is a fourth-year Global Studies student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As our  Programmes Research Intern, See Wah assisted in the conceptualisation and research of upcoming programmes related to the Museum's Vietnam War Art collection


I’ve always loved art. 

Reading literature, watching a theatre show, visiting art exhibitions – I love it all, so I was immensely nervous and excited when applying for the NUS Museum December internship. And I was positively thrilled when I got a position (preliminary research for a Cold War art symposium, in conjunction with the collection of Vietnam War art materials that the Museum has). 

It was scary at first, though. Visual arts was a terrain that I’ve never actually studied before, so I was quite apprehensive about how I was going to go about with my job. The first few days were basically me figuring out what the Museum has done thus far – I trawled through videos of past talks, I read through the materials that were amassed previously, and I did a lot of Googling. 

One of the days where I went down to the Museum to study collected resources.

The next step for me was to build on these resources by doing my own research. Now, this is where it got tough: with the whole world of Cold War art before me, and with this being a rather independent project, I had to figure out an action plan for what I should focus on, and how I should go about my research (at this point, I would like to thank NUS Libraries and the Museum’s Resource Library for being absolute sweethearts! I couldn’t have done this without you guys.) 

Eventually, I managed to come up with a rough sketch of what I envisioned the symposium could be like – a Southeast Asia-focused look at the nuances and trajectories of Cold War art and culture. I was pretty excited, since I love to learn about the dynamics of Southeast Asia during this post-colonial period, and it was also closely related to what I was studying in school (Global Studies). However, when I met with my supervisor, Michelle, to go through what I had done the past two weeks, I realized that I still had much to learn. Michelle rightly pointed out that my research had been too politically focused, with a thin focus on the art and culture itself. In my head, I had been too caught up with the idea that politics influenced art heavily, and that translated into my research (politics to art). After this realization came another one: I really, really, really wanted to learn, to absorb, and to create a new headspace where I could think and grasp visual arts from the art perspective – art to politics, art to society, art for art’s sake, et cetera (I’m born one year too early for NUS FASS’ Art History minor… sian.) 

Thereafter, I delved into my work with a clearer direction, and I am glad to say that, after a few weeks of recalibrating and reorganizing the way I carried out my research, I have indeed picked up a new way of viewing and researching about the visual arts, and am excited to explore this way of seeing even more (I’ll be taking Reading Visual Images as one of my modules next semester, yay!!). In this aspect, I’m really grateful towards the Museum for providing this opportunity for me to learn more about the art world, despite me having little background in it, other than my interest in arts. Also, I’m glad that I managed to churn out different materials for the Museum as well, despite my fears that my research might have ended up producing a scant amount of usable resources, and I hope that the Museum will find these useful!

On another note, I’d like to thank Michelle for planning such a wonderful ‘curriculum’ for us interns – despite the short duration of this internship, it was nevertheless jam-packed with activities: from visiting the National Gallery of Singapore with a mini-tour by one of the curators, to having a Collections & Conservation Workshop, there was always something planned to look forward to every week. 

Cool conservation workshop.

I’m really grateful that this internship offered so much learning, and I am truly and sincerely glad that I was able to spend a month with NUS Museum such that I was able to immerse myself into a field that I have never really experienced before in an educational/working capacity. 

Ho Tzu Nyen’s One or Several Tigers multimedia installation at National Gallery .

Lastly, I’d like to thank the people at NUS Museum – to Michelle, for the aforementioned and her guidance, to Sid, for her help and resources when I was starting out my research, to Wardah, for being really friendly and treating us to Starbucks on our last day, to everyone who has been welcoming and helpful in one way or the other, and last but not least, to the interns who are all super knowledgeable in their own ways (I enjoyed listening and talking to you guys about your experiences and interests!). 

Visit to the Baba House.

Till then for now!!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Hor Jen Yee

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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Hor Jen Yee is a third-year Psychology student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As our Museum Outreach Intern, Jen Yee assisted in Outreach administrative tasks, as well as assisting in the conceptualistion, research, and execution of upcoming Outreach programmes. 

5 weeks + 2 Saturdays, 11 interns, several edited videos, many photo albums and blog posts and even more stickers on brochures – that would be a brief numerical summary of the things that I had been involved in as an Outreach Intern for this December 2017 internship. However, as mundane as some of the work sounds, the insights that this experience has given me has been so much more. 

Although I was one of the few interns (in this mega-sized batch) that was not directly involved in research work, I still learnt a lot about the behind-the-scenes operations of a museum from seeing it in its stages of conceptualisation in research to organising programmes such as workshops, as well as liaising with future partners on collaborations. 

For instance, the research work of understanding an exhibition can never be completely distanced from museum work. As the first point of contact to some visitors, it is still crucial for outreach members to be armed with information on not only just one exhibition but also on all the materials that is in the museum at that time. I felt this first-hand of sorts during one of my first tasks of helping out with Sarkasi Said’s batik painting workshop, held across two Saturdays. During the second session, I was unexpectedly tasked to interpret a tour for the exhibition in Chinese to a special guest. Having only been to the exhibition twice before, it was definitely an interesting challenge, but the task also allowed me to really get to know the specific details behind the exhibition to be able to explain it well enough to another person. 

Going in, my understanding of the museum’s exhibitions before starting the internship was ironically very minimal. Hence I really enjoyed the internship activities that allowed us to get to know more about what NUS Museum does, as well as its perspective and mission. It was interesting to learn about how previous exhibitions related to one another, more about the concept of prep-rooms, and also the interesting combination of concepts from art, archaeology, history, and even some scientific aspects being brought into an exhibition. I also enjoyed other activities such as the tour of the Baba House and the Conservation and Handling Workshop. Both of which showcase some of the hidden science and challenges involved in museum works.

Same same but different. 

Being able to visit other galleries after learning all of this also gave me new perspectives with which to view exhibition spaces, especially after learning about the constraints and concerns involved in taking care of the artefacts and placing them. It was also good to experience some aspects of research by undertaking the research behind artworks in the museum’s collection that had little information. After all, I never would have thought that I would be reading through Chinese transcripts of oral interviews from the National Archives to learn more about Tan Tee Chie. 

When you realise that art photography is not easy with reflections being a thing.


In terms of day to day work, one of my tasks was to consolidate the postings across the various platforms of Facebook, Flickr, and the Museum blog. Organising and updating the Museum’s different social media platforms definitely allowed me to get to know more about the Museum’s exhibitions and events in an interesting way. After going through numerous photo albums, it almost felt like living vicariously to meet the guests and the key collaborators to the previous exhibitions and programmes. All of which, by the way, is completely accessible on NUS Museum’s little known Flickr page! 

I was also lucky enough to join Michelle, my supervisor, on some of her meetings to see how she does outreach with various partners and learn about NUS Museum’s perspective on the types of exhibitions and partnerships. For example, never would I have thought that a museum could be involved in reaching out to not only to Arts students but also to Architecture and external schools for teaching history and more. 

“What is the purpose of a museum?” – Although this conversation theme came up between Michelle (my supervisor) and me outside office hours, this question seemed to resonate throughout my experiences in these five weeks.  

As viewers walking into an exhibition, our role is simply to absorb and evaluate an exhibition for whatever we may have interpreted as its storyline/perspective. Viewers do not necessarily need any context in order to respond to it. However, as the organiser, the museum and its curators have to explore the stories behind the artworks and artefacts and create the experience from new and interesting perspectives. 

From these five weeks, I am glad to have been able to learn about the challenges and processes of research, searching for new perspectives, continuing partnerships, organising events, and networking that lie behind the surface of a clean and curated exhibition space.
Also, thank you to my supervisor Michelle for all the interesting conversations and organising the insightful activities at NUS Museum! 


Friday, 26 January 2018

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Guo Xiu Jin

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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Guo Xiu Jin is a third-year Architecture student at the NUS School of Design & Environment. As our Collections Intern, Jin worked on exploring possible improvements to Collections Online, which is NUS Museum's online database of artefacts. 


Five weeks of questions, that is how I’d describe my internship at NUS Museum.  

It all began with the question ‘what is a museum?’. What happens in a museum? What should happen in a museum? As an architecture student, I’ve been challenged to design museums before. My research came with the realisation that they housed all these wonderful exhibitions, but I had no idea how they came to be. The inner workings of a museum were opaque to me, someone on the outside. So, I applied.

My very first task was to attend Digital Conversations, a series of talks by the National Museum of Singapore on the topic of Virtual Reality (VR). I cannot underscore how much of an eye-opening experience it was. This was my first taste of VR and without trying it yourself, I cannot sufficiently describe the experience. It was a new medium that artists were exploring - were museums of today equipped to exhibit their works? 

Visiting the ruins of Palmyra, Syria - VR experience by Iconem, it recreates various Syrian heritage sites damaged by war. 

Imagine if, in the future, you could rebuild it yourself, brick by brick. This could help build national identity, reconnect with people with their heritage. Isn’t that the role of a museum? 

Later, we would visit NUS Museum. Despite its smaller size, there are uniquely fascinating spaces that I have never seen before in another museum. The prep-rooms are experimental spaces for artists and curators to explore different ideas and are actually open to public. Not only do they pull back the curtain on their thoughts and work, the public can even contribute and interact with the works. 

 What is a canvas? What is a painting? 

This prep-room features various explorations by artist Fyerool Darma. It highlights how the thoughts and creative energies that artists have goes beyond simply providing a backdrop for a painting. It might be a fabric from the ceiling, or spilling onto the walls. 

We also had a behind-the-scenes introduction to the work by conservators at NUS Museum. I could make an entire blog post about this. Their workspaces, their work in restoration, the ethical dilemmas that they have to be considerate of - there are so many things to talk about, such as how do you preserve temporary artworks? What if, by exhibiting the artwork, it decayed? They navigate these delicate issues which, when done well, are invisible to the audience at an exhibition. 

An exercise showing how different materials look under UV light.

Depending on the make-up of the paint, white paint to the naked eye will look different under UV light. This helps conservators identify the type of paint used, and possibly the period when the painting was made. 

NUS Museum is staffed by a group of dedicated and passionate people. One meeting with the curator Su Ling sticks in my mind. A petite woman, it was not her stature but her use of language that impresses. Simple and direct. I remember a quiet realisation at how much it revealed the organised and insightful mind behind it. I gained a newfound respect at the scope that the staff at NUS Museum considers. The order of exhibits, the logic, spatial arrangement, humidity, lighting, pests. The tangible and intangible. Each one brimming with questions.  

Donald running a short exercise on handling artefacts. 

This exercise let us handle some artefacts in person. The inside of my gloves were slick with sweat. If I dropped and broke one, that was it. They were genuine artefacts. Fun fact: The museum stripped out a section of floor tiles because they were too bumpy for trolleys.

Every intern were given artworks to research and write about. As a ‘non-art person’, writing about art is not something I had ever done before. It wasn’t uncommon to get lost in jargon while reading texts, or in conversations, prompting more research. Yet, I was surprised to find a small pleasure in the research. Why did he do this? What was the inspiration? Is he alive? From a stranger, the artist turns into someone you have a connection with. There was a weird excitement when I found out that the artist was indeed alive and in touch with NUS Museum. 

Me, in central library. Expect to spend some time here. Research in progress.


So, what is a museum? I’ve come to build my own ideas about it. Every museum is ever so slightly different. For example, NUS Museum, with its affiliation NUS, has an educational and academic slant to it. There are all kinds of activities and functions, both in and out of the public eye. A successful museum needs so many types of people. A museum is a container for all this life to mix and interact to create something new and memorable. Life begets Art. 


Now, how do I translate this online? 



I’m surprised by how much I was able to write for this post. I think that speaks to the depth of the experiences offered by an internship at NUS Museum, even at a short 5 weeks. The other interns you meet are unique and the conversations are gems. I definitely recommend anyone, who even slightly thinks that this might be interesting, to apply.  


I’d like to thank Michelle and NUS Museum for the opportunity, Greg for his guidance, and Wardah for her boundless energy.


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Shiau Yu

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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Shiau Yu is a second year student at the School of Art, Design & Media, NTU. As our Chinese Art intern, Shiau Yu was tasked to organise documentations, conduct research and assist with the development of exhibitions related to the NUS Museum's Chinese Ink collection.

As an art student, a museum goer, a part-time gallery sitter and a volunteering Chinese docent at museum, I’ve always been interested in the dynamics within the museum, between the viewers, between artworks, between viewer and artwork. So, I was pretty excited for the behind-the-scenes when I got the opportunity to intern at nus museum, more excited when I see a position in relation to my topic of interest: Chinese ink art. 


Team work! Helping each other to document

If you are passionate for art and museum, and are considering taking up the internship, get ready to be hit in the face by reality. Working alongside the museum staffs allows a sneak peek into the real work that goes on behind each exhibition, the managing of artworks, the handling of publicity, the planning and execution of exhibition down to every single detail. You get a taste of the bitter side of the job: It is not always passion-driven, it doesn’t always work, and as much as we care about art and museum, some people just don’t. 

And if you made it to this paragraph, just know that those dry and harsh reality is a necessary exposure, they end up as helpful experience for me and only developed my interest in art and museum more by showing me how meaningful the job is. 


Cracking our brains for the work

While walking through the exhibition, "Who Wants to Remember a War?", curated by my supervisor, Siang, I overheard a comment which says that “the exhibition is no longer about the artworks themselves, the group of works are placed together only to deliver the concept or intent of the curator.”

The tone of displeasure probably came from a viewpoint that exhibitions are supposed to be like documentaries, it should serve to exhibit the genuine intention of the artist and the true form of the work, thus the work should be presented in an objective context without any external narrative highlighting or downplaying any aspect of the work. 

I understand the worry that when curators chose to group a collection of works under the same title, certain aspects of the work might be overshadowed by the curator’s concept or the genre of art that the work is being chose to portray. It is possible that the open-ended ways to appreciate the works are being narrowed down by the decision of the curator within the particular exhibition. Like when the aesthetic quality of the sketches being overshadowed by their historical value as war art.

And I would agree with the comment that exhibitions today are always biased, but only because it is almost impossible to be objective. Curators select the works and arrange the placement like how a photographer choose to frame the shot and highlight certain subject. And even with the most genuine intention to stay truthful to the subject or stay objective with the selection of artworks, the moment we look into the viewfinder, the moment we start to consciously make a choice, we deviate from that objective viewpoint. 

And comments like that got me wondering: why is it important to have a curator to choose for us what to look at and plan for us which to look at first? Is there a need to even try to be objective in the museum? (no, I am not attempting to answer these questions)

Museum trips!

Working under Siang, I was impressed by the amount of research that goes on behind the scene, as well as the difference these researches made in the exhibition. A huge part of my job as a research intern is really static. I sit at the table, goes through page after page after page. Absorbing the text that may or may not be useful, evaluating the information. Most of them are not related to art, but provides me with the contextual knowledge, and some helps to embed more meaning to the work in the museum. The viewers today are looking not only at the conventional artistic value such as aesthetic and craftsmanship, they also take into consideration the conceptual value, the historical value of artworks.  One of the intricate job that curators do at NUS Museum is to carefully select the information and text to be presented at the exhibition alongside the artworks. By doing so, bringing out the meaning of the work. But at the same time, finding a balance such that the text does not over shadow the work itself or overwhelm the audience. More often than not, an artwork is not just a piece on its own but attached to the artist, the intention and the social context, it carries the entire background narrative with it. Selecting and arranging these works, then becomes a tactful duty and can almost get political at times. I marvel at the amount of thoughts put into each exhibition by the curators in order to make the show meaningful and thought provoking for the visitors. 

Discussions during lunchbreaks

The thoughts above are as result from not just my work at the office, but also discussions with the other interns, these paragraphs are in fact examples of what we sometimes end up discussing during our lunchbreak. The trips to different museums provides insightful exposure and bring out many interesting topics. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity which would not be possible without Michelle who curated this program, and for the kindness of the wonderful individuals in the office. My supervisor Siang describe herself as a bad mother when she gets too busy to talk to me or my partner at work, when in fact she is really kind and patient with us. Discussion with her doesn’t feel like work but always got me thinking and researching deeper into the topic, and I definitely learnt more than I bargained for.

Good times!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Grace Adam

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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Grace Adam is a year 4 Political Science student at the Singapore Management University. As our Baba House Outreach intern, Grace conducted research for Baba House programmes and assisted with public programmes and the daily operations of the Baba House.


The Peranakan community’s link to Singapore has been outstanding for quite some time, not in the least that our Singapore Airlines cabin crew uniform is inspired by the sarong kebaya or that the Singapore Tourism Board logo is derived from an architectural detail found in Peranakan shophouses. How can one speak of Singapore without accrediting the Peranakan community? It is this question that led me, a Political Science major, to pursue a museum internship at the NUS Baba House where a prominent Peranakan family once resided. 

To give a picture, atop a gentle slope from the main street at 157 Neil Road, a bright blue house sits tucked in the middle of a row of shophouses. Remote from the actual university campus, the NUS Baba House houses the NUS Museum’s Straits Chinese collection. It is one of the last surviving Straits Chinese townhouses in Singapore; its architecture and interior conserved as how it once was in the 1920s. Its unique cultural influence can be observed even in the tiniest details of building architecture, e.g. jian nian, and furniture artefacts, e.g. brown-and-gold wardrobes. Beyond the solipsism of display, as the Baba House intern, I tagged along on guided tours. Responsibilities included preparing the three-storeyed house for our local and international visitors and explaining the house rules. This allowed me to interact with people across different social strata and physical borders where, during the tours, they sometimes discovered they too practice variations of the traditions peculiar to the Peranakan community. Despite the absence of didactic placards, the museum is curated in such a way that visitors leave with a better understanding of the socio-cultural impact that the Peranakans might have had in their heyday in the early 20th century on the local community, and vice versa. 

Explore NUS Baba House’ invites people to experience the house at their own pace

To people who prefer wandering off the beaten path, the freshly-minted Explore NUS Baba House series is an alternative way to appreciate the house at one’s own pace. As the designated photographer, the visitors’ expressions and body language told tales, and it was wonderful to see people across generations, races and nationalities share the same look of curiosity and wonder as they navigated through the house. Following the diaspora of the Peranakans’ Chinese ancestors and their intermarriage with local populations, which led to the eventual development of the Peranakan community in Singapore, the common man today is still witness to the sweeping changes of international migration in a globalised world. There is much we can learn from the diversity in Peranakan culture, its absorption and assimilation of other cultures. Whoever said that interest in the arts and heritage in Singapore is irrelevant?

NUS Museum intern at “Yayoi Kusama: Prints” solo exhibition at Ota Fine Arts Singapore, Gillman Barracks

Speaking of which, once a week, I headed off to a different museum or art institution as part of the NUS Museum interns’ added learning – ticking off a summer bucket list to uncover all that Singapore’s art and cultural sector has to offer; an interest sparked by my exposure to SMU’s Arts and Culture Management modules. The interns were able, and encouraged, to pick the curators’ brains as they gave personal tours of their exhibitions. I especially enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look into the sperm whale exhibition at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum with Kate Pocklington. The bones on display barely hold a candle to the candid recount of finding the whale’s corpse washed ashore (“oh, the smell!”) and the days after of hardwork to strip the whale’s blubber. Take a peek at the video reel playing on the second floor of the exhibition! Apart from curator tours, I was happy to get a chance to see Let’s Chat: With Amanda Heng live at the NUS Museum. Through her art, Amanda allowed participants to enter into a safe conversation space, where we talked about anything from personal dreams for our future to women’s role in contemporary society. Wholly unflustered by the ebb and flow of participants, Amanda spoke with gravitas and paid every individual attention. It was inspiring.

I have seen new shows at museums make newspaper headlines (for better or worse; Yayoi Kusama at National Gallery of Singapore or the renamed Syonan Gallery, anyone?), but not only in the local context. The Culture section in the New York Times International Edition regularly features exhibitions at art galleries or museums. The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun also carries a tickling ‘Let’s go to the museum’ series featuring small museums in lesser-known prefectures. But y’know, it is one thing to read about a museum and another thing entirely to work in a museum. I strongly encourage anyone contemplating if they need be on par with industry experts on the latest trends or upcoming events, to know who’s who, to be able to critically analyse an artwork, artefact or curatorial decision – to stop thinking so much and submit that application form already.

NUS Museum interns, signing out

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Roundtable | Singapore in Crocodiles


Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Time: 4.30pm - 6.00PM
Venue: NUS Museum

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Roundtable: Singapore in Crocodiles gathers practitioners in the field of natural heritage and culture, visual arts and academia around the notion of crocodiles in the Singapore psyche. Prompted by Buaya: The Making of a Non-myth, an ongoing prep-room project by Kate Pocklington, the roundtable examines how themes from the research display can be extended through the ongoing conversations and interests of the crocodile as a juncture in historic, scientific and cultural perceptions. This is part of the continuum of prep-room activities that constructs itself as a dialogic space for audiences to problematize propositional aspects of curatorial work and to bring their own cultural perspectives to bear on its inquiry. Roundtable: Singapore in Crocodiles situates itself in developing further collaborations around the iterations of display of this particular research on the crocodile in Singapore.

The event also launches the Zine produced by NUS Museum summer interns Natalie Lie and David Low.

About the prep-room project
Buaya: The Making of a Non-myth is an evolving bodies of works around ideas on the saltwater crocodile in Singapore. It holds a space that welcomes the working presentations of parallel research projects and interpretations done by professionals in fields of natural history, arts, cultural studies as well as organising projects done by students from the NUS. The prep-room currently holds the ongoing research by restorer Kate Pocklington, contributions by museum interns Liana Gurung, Natalie Lie and David Low in response to the pool of resource materials of the project, and an iteration of Lucy Davis’ Migrant Ecologies Project. Buaya: The Making Of A Non-Myth is about the juncture in which the eclipsed histories of crocodiles recover a mapping of conversations, systems of belief and ultimately the connections and projections between humans and the natural world. These parallels and collisions of the perpetuating dichotomy of predator and prey cross paths of co-existence in this prep-room project.

Image : Buaya 384, Stone 73. 24 October 2017.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Chua Pei Wen

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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Chua Pei Wen is a year 4 History student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She was involved in research and documentation of curatorial projects related to photography during her time here as our Photographic Projects intern.

“Ding” – the sound of a new email. It was the NUS museum internship application form. I had always been interested in visiting museums but never understood how a museum works so I thought having an internship at a museum would allow me to understand the groundwork of a museum better. 

“Ding” – the sound of an email sent. I sent the email to the NUS museum, which contained my application form.  

In the blink of an eye, my internship at the NUS museum came to an end. It seems like it was only yesterday when I first stepped into the office on the first day of my internship. For the past thirteen weeks, I was a photographic curatorial research intern helping my supervisor, Chang Yueh Siang, with her projects. Throughout this journey, I’ve learnt new skills, gained new knowledge and had a lot of fun. Now, the journey of my internship has come to an end. It is just a few more days before I return to school for my final year. As I sit on my chair typing this blog post, I am reflecting on my journey. Memories and memories flash through my mind, and as dramatic as it may sound, it is like watching a film – a short film. 


 Last day of internship

This journey was meaningful and enriching, one that provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn. I decided to pen my journey of the internship with a verse/poem, something I occasionally do whenever I feel stressed or bored.

The Journey

Today, my last day,
as I clear my desk filled with books;
memories cross my mind.

Back then, I made a decision,
to learn about the back scenes of the museum
which I discovered with curiosity.


I remember the days,
as I sat in the office researching and collating information.
Opening tab after tab,
reading article after article,
researching for my projects.
That battle might be hard,
but the end is fruitful.

I remember the days,
as I sat in the library battling the dusty old archival materials.
Flipping through book after book,
reading line after line,
extracting crucial information.
Learning all about curatorial research,
which is meaningful.

I remember the days,
as I crafted my response essay for an exhibition’s proposal, titled “Searching for Jules”.
Analysing picture after picture,
typing line after line,
Penning down my thoughts
I was never afraid, as my supervisor,
deconstructed and reconstructed my essay.

I remember the days,
as I walked around the different museums in Singapore.
Looking at artwork after artwork,
walking through exhibit after exhibit,
appreciating other curators’ shows.
I learnt that to
curate a show is never easy.



I remember the days,
as we had our fortnightly discussions after the museum trips.
Sitting in the meeting room with my fellow interns,
discussing showafter show,
presenting perspective after perspective.
As we exchanged our views,
I learnt to see things from a different angle.

Now, as I walk through an exhibition
appreciating the roles of the curators,
their voices sing behind the show.

This, my last task,
as I submitthe blogpost,
this chapter comes to an end.


 Final product of my response essay


 One of our museum trips – Lee Kong Chian Natural History museum

Before I end this post, I would like to sincerely thank Siang, Michelle and the rest of the NUS Museum team who were so warm and welcoming towards us. Lastly, I also wish to extend my gratitude to my fellow intern friends who made my experience here a very enjoyable one!