Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Jaclyn Chong

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! 


Jaclyn is a fourth-year Theatre Studies student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As our Exhibition Management and Programmes Intern, Jaclyn assisted her supervisor, NUS Museum curator, Sidd Perez, in exhibitions and programming.

On locating the contemporary

But firstly, where do I locate myself? In attempting to locate myself, I attempt to locate the contemporary as well, the space where a Theatre Studies major with an interest in the visual arts may exist. 

I’m not trying to impose my theatre-centric views on the visual arts. Instead, I find spaces where visions and ideals align, and new possibilities emerge. 

Reflecting self and the archaeology shelves  

The NUS Museum is a curious place to begin locating the contemporary. Something about the space just doesn’t scream “cool”, “experimental” and “edgy” like how other contemporary art spaces may choose to present themselves. However the contemporary is ever present, vacillating in the spaces in-between.

On every floor, there is both a permanent collection, and a more temporary fluid space, where new exhibitions may come and go. With the permanent collections in the space, the contemporary seems to lie in the continual interaction with new exhibitions. Perhaps, I’ve come to seek the refuge of the museum. Its stable institutional structures assure me of the possibilities to come, a temporary respite from trudging through the chaotic mess of art worlds alone and establishing my connectivity to them.Here, a balance between the academic, the institutional but at the same time experimental ways of working, create oppositions that place me in an interesting bind.

Measuring the spaces in-between 

Trying my hand at curating a parallel project for the prep-room threw me into the worlds of curating unexpectedly. Before I even started on the project, I started doing my own reading into what curating is about, to assuage my inadequacy, if anything. I wanted to locate my own opinion or take on curating, to ground myself in a vision that would allow me to make helpful decisions. 

Place making, world picturing, and connectivity are the most common concerns of artists these days because they are the substance of contemporary being. Increasingly, they override residual distinctions based on style, mode, medium, and ideology. –Thinking Contemporary Curating, Terry Smith

This helped me in making sense of how I saw the students’ works coming together. What was important in the context of the prep-room was that they provided a different perspective, maybe even helped contextualize the artists’ works in the space, such that one could picture the worlds in which they inhabit.

A reflection: being in the museum allows me to be exposed to ideas. To ways of working, ways of making and un-making, ways of seeing and ways of existing. To be in the museum space is to be refreshed and to be engaging with notions of spatiality and materiality that coalesce in contemplating our existence.

For one, Of Place and A Paradox reminded me to question. What makes a place a place? What makes Singapore Singapore, and what makes Patani and Singapore different and yet so similar?

Some people perhaps seek truth and comfort in tracing facts and history. But I’ve come to realise that the museum is much more than that. 

Materiality and contemporaneity converge, and I leave the museum feeling like there has always been a place for me somewhere here. 


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