Monday, 11 August 2014

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Ngauw Wei Chang

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.


Ngauw Wei Chang is a fourth year History major at the National University of Singapore. Wei Chang joined us as the Baba House Outreach Intern for the summer and has in the process also become a trained docent! 

I was the Baba House Outreach Intern for 12 weeks and this internship has really been a wonderful experience for me. The past 12 weeks has been a fruitful and eventful as I was exposed to a variety of responsibilities, some of which are beyond what I had expected when I first applied for this position.

My responsibilities include researching on Peranakan culture and the history of Baba House. Once I had completed my research, I started guiding Baba House Heritage Tours. These are things that I knew I had signed up for. On top of research and guiding tours, I was lucky enough to be a part of many other events that took place when I was a part of NUS Museum. I had the chance to take part in the different Walking Tours organized by the Museum Outreach team (Railway Corridor, Picturing Colonial Singapore and Chinese Clan Houses), as well as the programmes planned for Children’s Season 2014 (Family Fun with Clay and Creative Linocut Printing).

Being given the chance to participate in all these activities helped me realize just how much time and effort is required when it comes to pre-event preparatory work. It takes a docent many weeks of careful research, going through a plethora of sources before he/she is ready to guide the Heritage Tour. Even after research has been completed, every tour that a docent guides is a learning experience, be it in terms of time management (it is never easy to limit the tour to an hour when there are so many interesting things about the house to explain!) or how best to make the tour flow fluently and naturally. Furthermore, for events such as the Walking Tours, not only do we have to liaise with our tour guides (usually academics), we (or rather, Poonam, my internship supervisor) had to go through a test-run prior to the event. The pre-event dry run ensures that the tour is not too long, and allows us to find the best locations to stop and explain different points of interest without blocking the paths of other commuters. Seeing my supervisor go through the preparation process really shows how much effort she has invested in for our activities and these are just some of the work that we had to do behind the scenes, and are usually overlooked by others.

Apart from the conceptualization of activities, it is also a challenge to ensure that we are logistically prepared for our events and activities. For instance, Poonam, had to wreck her brain over what paint to use in order to best capture the intended effect of capturing the texture of wooden blocs imprinted for our block printing activity. We also had to start packing the material needed for the Istana Art Event 2014 up to 2 weeks in advance.

Being a part of the NUS Museum for the last three months was extremely enjoyable for me and I’m really grateful for the patience and guidance that my immediate supervisors have showered me. In particular, I’m glad that Su Ling, the Head of Baba House and curator of NUS Museum gave me the opportunity to handle textiles (Nyonya embroidery) that were more than a hundred years old. Also, I’m thankful for all the help and advice that Poonam and Fadhly had provided the past 12 weeks, for giving me the room to make mistakes and to learn from them. Also, having great fellow interns (and lunchtime buddies) made sure that work was always fun and interesting.

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