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!

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