Friday, 11 July 2014

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Timothy Lim

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!

For Summer 2014, we have 6 undergraduate interns working with the curatorial and outreach teams, conducting research into the Museum's collections as we prepare for our upcoming Resource Gallery, the new T.K. Sabapathy Collection of books and artworks, the archaeological sherd collection housed in the Sherd Library as well as conceptualising and running Outreach events at the Baba House and the NUS Museum! 


Timothy Lim will be a second-year student at Yale-NUS College. Timothy joined us as a Between Here & Nanyang Curatorial Intern, conducting further research and assembling bibliographic materials for the exhibition.

For the past 8 weeks, I was the Between Here and Nanyang Curatorial Intern at the NUS Museum. During this time, I was exposed to the thought process behind curating as well as glimpses into how the museum is run. I gained a new perspective on what the role curators play when designing exhibits.

As the Between Here and Nanyang Curatorial Intern, I worked with the curators who curated the Between Here and Nanyang: Marco Hsu’s Brief History of Malayan Art exhibition. The exhibition is based on the art historian Marco Hsu’s book A Brief History of Malayan Art, covering everything from the pre-historic peoples that lived here all the way up to the days of merger and formation of Malaysia.  They are currently working on the upcoming refresh of the exhibit. The first thing I realized about curating was the sheer amount or resources it takes to even begin crafting the direction of an exhibition. It might have seemed pretty straightforward: the whole exhibition is about the book; you could just go through it chapter by chapter and display whatever he mentions in the book. However, the exhibition is not about explicating the book, but about opening up the seams of its message and really digging into what is being said, and even what is being left out.

My work was focused around studying the text and looking for nuances or gaps in Marco Hsu’s “brief history”, as well as looking through many contemporary texts of that era from the 1950s to the 1960s.  Marco Hsu and many of the artists and intellectuals that were his contemporaries were deeply involved in Chinese education as well, and as such the majority of the texts I work with are in Chinese. I have also just finished a Malay novel, Salina by A. Samad Said. One of the reasons that I work with vernacular texts is because one of the aims of the Marco Hsu exhibition is to add alternative voices when examining the seams of his work; during the last years of colonization, artists and intellectuals were working within their own ethnic groups and writing in vernacular, and many of the resources that are important to the project were not translated. This project was particularly interesting to me as a Malaysian, since being able to speak both Malay and Chinese helped me to easily move between the vernacular texts, and having grown up in KL, it was helpful in understanding the context of many of the authors.

Of course, being an intern does not just mean sitting in a cubicle at the back of the office all day! Mid-way through my internship, the NUS Museum’s Curating Lab programme went underway and I had the opportunity to sit in on one of their lectures by Latitudes, a curatorial team from Spain, who explained their mode of curating and the different perspectives they take depending on the briefs they are given. I also had the chance to attend a Conservation workshop, and saw the techniques and thoughts that go into conserving museum exhibits. We were also given a curated tour of the exhibitions in the museum and the NUS Baba House, allowing us to fully appreciate the work that our supervisors had put in when curating these exhibitions. I was also roped in to help with the madness of the opening of a new exhibitions, cutting and nailing down materials for the exhibitions as well as the cleaning up before opening night!

I am truly grateful for this opportunity to be able to work alongside my supervisors and fellow interns at the NUS Museum. As a Yale-NUS student, we rarely get a chance to immerse ourselves in NUS itself, so this summer has been a great way to get to know the people who work and study here. The research and readings I have done over the weeks, coupled with conversations with my supervisors and fellow interns have challenged the way I see this region, and how art can play a role in shaping the narratives of a place we all call home.  

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