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, 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!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: David Low

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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David Low is a first year Master's by Research student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesAs our Exhibition Management and Editorial intern, David was tasked to assist in various research and exhibition processes, in particular for Prep-Room | 'BUAYA: The Making of a Non-Myth' .


One is curious when interning at the museum as to where might the afterlife of exhibitions be? For with the idea of an afterlife comes the conjuration of multiple imageries – the most popular of which revolves round two concepts. One, the binary outcomes of absolute respite or eternal damnation, and the other, a karmic cycle of transference from one state to the next. Physically, the museum is no such conduit or place. Yet the spectre of the afterlife remains. Though haunting, though elusive, though incognizant with reality; the afterlife exist only because of man’s unwillingness to come to terms with the impermanence of his or her world(s).  And such is, the nature of exhibitions, which happens once in time and never again and yet whose audible voices are ontologically anxious. 

When objects return to their respective collections after an exhibition closes, where do these disembodied voices find their resting place- their proverbial heaven? Do they find respite and resolute solace in the outcomes of accompanying publications that must ultimately return to the dust of the shelves or in programmes that would soon be forgotten? If so, why then the incessant cry to be heard? And if heaven- a place where desire and want is fulfilled, is in this case a realm for these voices to be appreciated, remembered, recognised, and celebrated under the academic limelight, do then their voices speaks over the silence of others?

It maybe that what constitutes as heaven for an exhibition could also well be hell for others. In this manner, hell is for those whose cherished worlds are muted, violently erased, crushed under, and eaten up by institutional ones. The legendary destroyer of worlds is oftentimes not a divine being or even Chronos but more so the earthly museological institutions who subsumed the live worlds of people, cultures, and histories in the name of collective progress through the process of cultural and social instrumentation. 


Attempting to hear different voices at the National Museum.

In speaking of the earthly, it is then apt at this junction to see how might I, a student of Southeast Asian Studies who is interested in museology, navigate through the proliferation of angsty spectral voices disembodied by erasures. We live in interesting times. Cultural witch hunts occur almost daily to castigate the elusive bigot as the ferocious cry of those to be heard assail on incessantly. Even as the praxis of museology and museum has evolved away from the intrinsically racist, taxonomical and categorical display of the modernist, colonialist era to the now more post-modern, less assumptive less essentialist way of knowing, witch hunts intensify. Gone are the days where museums could pretend to fulfil fully the mandate of the universal, the border-defined, the subaltern, and their histories. Nevertheless as what artist Ang Song Ming courageously uttered: “We all stand accused, but will we confess our sins?”  

Will one confess that there is no heaven without hell; no remembrance without forgetting; no speaking without the silencing of others? Will one confess that while encumbered by its collection, its history, and its present, the museum’s aspirations could no longer be an absolute declaration to commitment? And instead, through the confession will one admit the utter impracticality to view the afterlife of exhibitions as linear binary outcomes of good or bad and/or even attaining to some impossible goal of perfect ethical representation, (re)-interpretation or re-engagement? 

In this sense then perhaps there isn’t a resolute ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ for exhibitions, but with every death comes strange beginnings and departures. When an exhibition end, voices either remembered or forgotten do not stay in constant states of the glorified or dammed but are translated into spectres that haunt and colour new exhibitions. Just as one could not call something not being into being so every exhibition are not true beginnings but strange originary middles. Yet new middles nonetheless. For example, the voices deemed banal but contemporaneous with the opening exhibition of the long gone Raffles Museum in 1887, were reincarnated a century later and manifested as art when the interiors of its exhibits were unearthed.  Which then took on a whole new persona that allows artists and intellectuals alike to appreciate the conversations and imbrications between competing narratives of the colonial, national, local folk histories of Singapore, effusing from the spectral consciousness of that 1887 crocodile exhibit.  Equally in this afterlife of transmigration from one state to the other, previously labelled ‘exotic’ documentaries of a certain white male could now be glorified as post-colonial nostalgia when exhibited at the museum.  


Entering a different consciousness while creating a zine.

Consequently to recognise these beginnings and departures demands one to break free from pedagogical thinking; from the thinking of linear outcomes.  To break free – a cry from the spectres of violent erasures and equally as from those who unwittingly erase. To break free requires a new kind of consciousness. One that is not found in the building of exhibitions upon discourse; nor in the strategies of insisting cultural difference; nor is it narrowly through inhabiting and representing the references of others. It is a consciousness as what artist Erica Tan describes, ‘less a question of whose shoulders can I stand on than how we are mutually contaminated.’ It is a consciousness found in the unending process of becoming, of mutual contamination, of death and rebirth, of the afterlife. 


Death and afterlife.

So as one inhabiting this contested region of Southeast Asia and also who is interested in museology, this internship has given me an introduction to this consciousness found between death and the afterlife. I have learned to be interested in the details, from where the spectres are crying for rebirth and whose voices often lead one to creative accidents.  My duty then, as with the biblical exile John, is to turn and look at the voices of parallel realities; those who call from behind the stuffy veil of reality. 

Or as what my mentor curator Siddharta Perez had said to me, ‘the magic of curatorial work lies on the detours and the things that fall in the cracks.’ 

Detours

With a grateful heart to these cherished memories I like to thank Siddharta for her guidance in editorial work and the for the opportunity at ideation, theory building and conceptualising. I would like to thank Donald for imparting his experience in exhibition management. I would also like to thank Michelle for making this internship happen. Their fortitude and wisdom has taught me that working in a museum requires not merely the logistical aptitude in putting up an exhibition or publishing a book but also the creative rigour in conceptualizing, mediating cultural narratives and bridging politicized divides in meaning-making.

I would also like to thank Natalie, Caroline, Shiau Yu, Chu Qiao, Pei Wen, Vannessa, and Grace, my fellow interns, for their intermittent thought-provoking discussions.  


Just another day at the museum.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Caroline Ang

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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Caroline Ang is a third-year History student at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological UniversityAs our Archaeology Research & Programmes intern, Caroline conducted research on techniques and technologies used in archaeology, analysis of ceramics as well as further research on the Dragon kilns in Singapore


As a NTU student, it had been a foreign experience for the past three months as I headed to NUS for the period of the internship - although admittedly, the NUS campus is located much closer to home. However, now that the internship has come to an end, I find myself reluctant to part from this experience. 



Trying to understand the various connections to the dragon kilns

I had initially decided to apply for the NUS museum internship because of the archaeological programme position that was available, due to my personal interest in historic ceramics and the study of it. However, despite the original scope of the position - researching the various techniques and technologies used in the archaeology and analysis of ceramic sherds – the direction I took in my research shifted when I decided to focus on kilns, and then specifically, the dragon kilns in Singapore. Thankfully, my supervisor Su Ling was very open to let me head the direction of my research. Thus, as I ventured further into the process, I moved on to look at the commercial pottery industry in Singapore as a whole.  




Goofing off on the last day of work (or maybe everyday?)

It was through this process of investigating this history of the dragon kilns, brick kilns, and pottery industry in Singapore that made me realised some of the underlying assumptions that I have been making so far.  By holding onto the assumption that pottery only includes cups, pots, jars, but not other wares made of clay such as bricks, clay pipes, or even tiles, I had already ignored a large part of material and information that was available to me. Furthermore, whenever I think about ceramics in Southeast Asia, I would automatically limit the time period to one before the 15th or 16th century, and that had automatically excluded the pottery industry in 20th century Singapore. 

But this exclusion, both in terms of wares and time period, does not only seem to be limited to myself. With an awareness of my assumptions, I tried to do a search on this 20th/21st century pottery industry. But beyond finding a few exhibitions and articles that mentioned the dragons kilns involved in the industry in a manner that was more focussed on preservation and nostalgia, there appears to be a dearth of research into this industry that is simultaneously modern, in comparison to the historic artefacts, and yet rapidly disappearing into the recesses of history.

Perhaps 30-40 years ago, knowledge of the pottery industry would have been commonplace, an everyday industry that no one thinks twice about. Today, with the expired land lease threatening the existence of the last two dragon kilns in Singapore, public interest has spiked as those involved in the preservation have sought to spread information about the significance of a pottery industry that no longer has any current day relevance. But 20, 30, or even 50 years down the road… would the knowledge of this industry even survive? Or would the insignificance of this knowledge, in the face of the larger ‘Singapore Story’, simply vanish into the dark spots of time?

In an attempt to find out more, I spent the past few months digging deeper into the archival sources available online. Old newspapers were my predominant source, as I went through the database searching for any mentions of kilns, bricks, pottery, ceramics, etc. Other sources that I had to look at also included the oral histories recorded by the National Archives, along with its repository of old maps, building plans, pictures, and even business records. I tried to look for possible connections, with Su Ling pointing out various directions that I could approach the topic from. Looking beyond simply mentions of the kilns and the wares, I also looked at the supporting industries – rubber plantations, nurseries, public works and the labourers, etc., to try to see how various factors had affected the rise and decline of the industry.

It was interesting to see how everything was related, how the rapid redevelopment of the economy and the land dealt a swift blow to the numerous smaller industries that we now dub ‘vanishing trades’. The usage of words like ‘heritage’ and ‘nostalgia’ today – a topic that my fellow interns and I had debated extensively about during our post-field trips discussions (and random breaks dispersed throughout the day), to fight for the continual existence of these fast disappearing industries, buildings, customs, etc. appears to be flung around almost carelessly. But to what end would the preservation of these trades and practices bring about beyond ultimately being transformed into a spectacle and performance, away from its original purposes?


Work desk mess?

Now that the internship has come to an end, the sources that had been collated from my research still remains without a perspective or means to mould it into a more comprehensible ‘lump’. The question remains – how can we present this knowledge of the pottery industry in Singapore without resorting to the similar narratives of heritage and nostalgia? Could we look at it from the materials’ perspective, where we focus upon the objects – such as the bricks, cups, pots, and jars – to tell this story? Or perhaps from the kilns’ perspective, one that is simultaneously over-explored and overlooked, to understand how these cornerstones of the industries had came about, and transformed over time, rather than continually circling around the histories of just one or two dragon kilns?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Natalie Lie

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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Natalie Lie is a third-year History student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As our Curatorial Programming Intern, Natalie was involved in research and execution for a number of exhibitions and its programmes.

Since I was young, I had always been interested in museums and art, and that gave me the impetus to apply for the NUS museum internship. Needless to say, as someone with little experience in curating or museum work, I was thrilled and daunted, when I had the opportunity to work with the NUS museum over the summer as the Curatorial Programming intern.

Perhaps what really drew my interest to the position was the idea of putting together an exhibition. It always fascinated me how things were put together in a way that could be so coherent and cogent, and that became the anchor to what I was trying to learn and understand through the internship. In the summer I spent here, I had the opportunity to take on multiple roles and tasks that all added to a holistic experience of museum work, and that expanded my depth and understanding not only of curating but of the museum as an institution.


Because 3 heads are better than one

Though I never quite realised at the time, my first lesson in curating came in the form of a zine for the prep-room exhibition Buaya: The Making of a Non-Myth, one of the two prep-room projects that we were focusing on. Both David (my partner-in-internship) and I, were tasked with putting together a zine that would not only draw from the project but also be an extension and exploration of its discursive possibilities. In all honesty, the project seemed completely intimidating initially, considering I had never made something of the kind before. All the possibilities, questions, and worries came at once: Where do we begin? What materials should we use? How do we balance discourse and narrative? To be informative, but also not dictatorial? How should it even look? Thankfully, we had the guidance of our mentor-supervisor, Sidd, who was there for us, always encouraging and assuring us that it was okay if things were a little rough around the edges. It was all in the spirit of the prep-room after all!



Laying it all out  

The whole process however, really brought these questions to the fore, shifting them from the thoughts of an outsider, a viewer, a reader, to that of a researcher, a selector, and an arranger, all of which make the curator. Many a day was spent sieving through mounds of research material, and brainstorming different ways in which things could fit together. Never had I realised how much thought and consideration goes into putting a thing together, whether it be a zine, an event, or an exhibition. Someone had all these to consider first, so that we may enjoy and consider them later, and we had the wonderful opportunity to experience things right from the conception.

Beyond the zine, my foray into the world of curation and exhibition planning was extended and explored in all other parts of my internship, from planning the programming to our museum discussions and excursions. It was eye-opening to see the work behind planning and setting up exhibitions, and we were even given the chance to help with the set-up. I got to see how space was being considered, and how its use could shape the experience for the visitor. We even had the chance to help with setting up the exhibition, from cling-wrapping and drilling, to the actual hanging and handling the artwork. It was certainly an experience one rarely gets to be a part of, and an opportunity for hands-on learning beyond the office. At other times, we would be hosts and ushers as the front-of-house, getting to understand the on-the-ground shenanigans, and getting to interact with museum-goers, guests, and students and hearing their thoughts. All these roles and individuals come together as different cogs and gears of the finely-tuned museum machine, working together to keep things running smoothly.


 Just your average museum event…

The internship opened my eyes to different aspects of museum work, allowing me to build up a repertoire of knowledge of museums and curation, while also honing the practical and technical skills behind exhibition set-ups. I can only be thankful to the museum team for having me over the summer, and for the opportunity to experience these things. With my parting words, I would just like say my biggest thanks to Michelle for planning the internship and for the thought-provoking museum conversations, and especially to my supervisor Sidd whose wisdom, patience, and kindness I find invaluable. Thank you both for your guidance. Last, but not least, to my fellow interns, thank you for the wonderful company both in, and out of work. I look forward to seeing you all around!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Whitney Goh

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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Whitney 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 as an intern, Whitney worked closely with the Museum Outreach by assisting in various administrative works for the museum’s programmes. In this post, she reflects on her experience with the programmes and the exhibitions of the museum.


In my short 4 weeks interning at NUS Museum, I’ve learnt new skills, gained new knowledge and had a lot of fun. Event planning was one of the main aspects of this internship and I now know the tremendous amount of time and work that goes into planning and executing just one event. I merely helped out with one event: the Musem Education Symposium (MUSES) workshop but that alone already involved a lot of preparation of materials, slides and even prepping the event space. One of the biggest takeaways from this internship is my new sense of appreciation for the arts and culture, especially in Singapore.

My favourite exhibition of the museum was Radio Malaya: Abridged Conversations about Art. Radio Malaya is like a debate on the culture and heritage of Singapore. Is Singapore a cultural desert? Do we have a rich sense of history and culture hidden within our roots? All the pieces in this exhibit allowed for one to connect them in context of the exhibit’s theme: Singapore’s culture and heritage. The way the exhibit flowed and how each piece’s story was connected to another was really impressive and intriguing. These are some of the more interesting pieces I saw and my take on them:



The first piece I saw at the start of the exhibition was “Cultural Sinkholes” by Salleh Japar. The paper mache that’s used here are actually road maps of Singapore, each sinkhole covered by road maps of Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India respectively, representing the old spatial distribution of racial groups. In the past, space was segregated according to race mostly for ease of governance. However, could that have created a kind of cultural separation that still exists today?



Several paintings featured the use of traditional Chinese brush strokes and art techniques to paint Malayan settings. Seeing how such techniques were being used to paint not-your-typical-bird-chineseflower-lotus sceneries, we can see the interaction that occurred between people, between communities; a fusion of East meets West.



Sites of Manoeuvre by Michael Lee. A 3D reconstruction of lost sites in Singapore such as the old National Library (picture), the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the old British Council. These pieces not only strike a sense of nostalgia into us, but also serve to remind us of the memories and history we have abandoned over the years of development.





These 3 paintings seem to have a common theme: groups of women doing stuff/labour. I think it showcases the contributions of women in the past and display the important roles that women play in building the Singapore we know today. However, the paintings also seem to highlight the idea of cultural separation, where spatial segregation of races spill into the workplace and the social environment.

An exercrpt from the poem <This Island Is Too Much>

Some foundations are too grimy
Some pupils have too much pocket money
Some students are overwhelmed with activities
Some scholarships are remarkably hard to secure

Some NS is such a waste of time
Some reservists are way too vulgar
Some CD brigades have way too many malays
Some Mat Kampau pose too much

Some many other things besides these
Better just to leave it at that
Some poets say too much
What is it about love?

I love this poem; I think it showcases Singaporean’s culture of complaining way too well.

On the 17th of January, we were asked to assist and be a part of Amanda Heng’s “Let’s Chat” performance at the Radio Malaya opening where people got together and plucked “tao gei”s while drinking tea and chit chatting. We used around 4kg of tao geis for the performance and even met Amanda Heng herself during the opening and assisted her by cleaning the teacups and constantly replenishing the tao geis. Although unfortunately I was unable to be there for the actual Radio Malaya opening in the evening, helping out with Amanda’s performance art piece in the day was very fun. Plucking tao geis and sipping on tea while conversing with other people is an unexpectedly great way to socialise and meet new people.




Monday, 8 May 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Cheyanne Gan

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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Cheyanne 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. As our NUS Baba House Intern, Cheyanne was tasked to carry out research on various artefacts in the house and was also involved  its daily operations and logistics matters.


These 3 weeks of internship with NUS Museum have definitely been fulfilling. Through the numerous museum visits, I managed to learn more about museum operations and logistics. Being stationed at NUS Baba House, I was able to experience fully the life of one working at a house museum. At the same time I also learnt so many things about Peranakan culture! I learnt how unique Peranakan culture is, as an example of how a community, Chinese in this case, came to adapt to its environment without losing its identity. Now I understand how closely linked history and culture are. I have also realised the importance of local culture, of not just the Peranakans, but also the cultures of the different ethnic and religious groups present in Singapore.

As I was doing research for the different historical artefacts in the house, I realised that each artefact placed in this house has so much historical value as well as cultural meaning behind it. Each artefact tells a story on its own. A kind of story that your grandmother and grandfather would tell you. After going through the artefacts in detail and analysing the house as a whole, I now understand how important it is to make the correct decisions when a conserved house is concerned; how every artefact makes a difference, and every decision has its consequences. Curators must always keep in mind their purpose as well as the identity of the house.

As I communicated with the visitors, I could tell they were very interested in the house. Many were eager to visit the house. I know the staff at the Baba House also feel a deep sense of pride and attachment towards this house. For this blue house along Neil Road reflects more than 10 years of their hard work, from conducting tests to find out the original colour of the house to experimenting to decide which lime plaster works best for the walls. The amount of effort put into conserving and running this house reflects the passion and love the staff as well as the NUS students have for Peranakan heritage. For this house is not merely a house filled with old furniture. It is a house which contains many stories of the people who used to live here. It is a house which we will entrust to the next generation to look after.

I do not regret taking up this internship, because it has taught me things I cannot learn anywhere else. After such an experience, I am able to better appreciate the historical sites we still have in Singapore today. Thank you NUS Museum for such a privilege, and special thanks to the staff of Baba House, namely Fadhly and Poonam, for their patience and guidance throughout this internship.



Exhibitions at the Lee Kong Chian Gallery


Me standing in the front courtyard of the house. Sadly this is the only photo I have of Baba House because we can only take photos outside the house.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Valerie Kwok

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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Valerie 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. Valerie was attached to the Museum Outreach team during her time here where she assisted in various administrative works for the museum’s programmes. She will share with us more about her time here in NUS Museum and her experience in a programme she was involved in.


There are too many episodes of people coming here...

This exhibition, unlike the rest, has no theme, which ironically makes that the theme of the exhibition. It builds on previous exhibitions, and the curatorial idea is to try to form connections with each changing exhibitions from the past, albeit completely different in theme. It essentially just collects a certain artwork from a previous exhibition and then put them all together. This exhibition aims to get the visitors to make their own connections and interpretation, to stimulate their minds and thoughts. It has different themes, ranging from traditional art pieces, to contemporary works of artists.

As seen from the picture below, the exhibition has a very flat design, and from what I learnt from Michelle, it was intended so people can ‘bounce about exhibits easily in no particular order’ to corroborate with the theme. To add on, many of these exhibits have little to no description of what they are, and this is so that the visitors can interpret the artwork themselves.



Personally till now, my interpretation of this exhibition, is to show how art is malleable and ductile, it can come in so many different forms through so many time periods, yet, no matter how stark the difference, still belongs to one entity, - Art. From shadow puppets to a technological device, one may feel like there is absolutely no connection between them, whilst forgetting that these pieces are both hung on the wall, for the viewers to appreciate. Yes, the differences are more obvious, but their one similarity outweighs all their differences combined. Whilst typing this, I find that this can actually be drawn parallel to the entity known as the human race, where by throughout the times and space and races, etc, where we wage wars over our differences, we forget that  we are still the human entity, connected in one way or another, and yes perhaps we haven’t really made the connection yet or maybe we already have, but choose to hide it because we simply cannot accept the fact that our one big similarity outweighs whatever differences we have, but it is there, and it is real.

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  The opening of Radio Malaya on the 17th of January, was by far the busiest day of the WOW internship so far. We had so many things to do throughout the course of the entire day to prepare for the grand opening of the Radio Malaya: Abridged Conversations about Art. We were tasked with assisting Amanda Heng’s performance of ‘Let’s Chat’, where by it is a set-up with a table and 4kg worth of bean sprouts with tea, where visitors of the museum will sit there as and when they want to talk to her, all while drinking Chinese tea. For the TJC interns, we were tasked to wash the teacups as soon as one guest leaves, boil water, and making tea, ensuring that her performance was perfect.



As we were there the whole of the day we participated in the performance for a period of time, and it was rather interesting, plucking beansprouts in a museum. We sat with Amanda Heng, and another painter friend of hers and a NUS student who came.

I found out that the artists in the 1950s were considered outcasts due to many governmental controls and societal conforms. Amanda Heng was telling us about how many artists, including herself, run a risk of danger of going to jail for making pieces frowned upon by the government.

It made me realize that there was a thin, fine line for artists to hover around, one wrong move and they could land right in jail.  More often than not, what artists believe and stand for normally cross that line, and they always find ways and means of toning it down, some successful, while some go to jail.

It was a really eye-opening experience to be here at Radio Malaya’s opening and I think I learnt a lot from today’s experience.

All in all, this internship has really opened my eyes to a world I never thought existed and I am so grateful to be given this opportunity to do so.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

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! 

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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!