Other Campus Life Stories:
By Fiona Tan Lu Pin
Year 4 History major
Lighting up the gloomy skies
The team working on the Raffles Light Prep Room. (From left) Mustafa, Melissa, Eddie and Fiona.
Fiona, hard at work in the Raffles Light Prep Room at the NUS Museum.
Fiona shares about “The Raffles Light Prep Room” which was launched in June 2011. It is open for public viewing till December 2011 at the Atrium Gallery on the NUS Museum lobby level.
“This is it.” It seemed much smaller than I had imagined or maybe ten weeks of research had built up unrealistic expectations. Nevertheless, as we walked down the Raffles Marina pier, I wondered how differently I would have viewed the structure at the end of our stroll. Without prior research, I wouldn’t have recognised it as the 20-metre replica of the original 40-metre tall Raffles Lighthouse located at the southern tip of Singapore’s territories. I certainly wouldn’t have spent half an hour travelling to Tuas West and another hour waiting for the rain to lighten up. And I definitely would not be writing this.
I first began to research for the Raffles Light prep room, a showcase of a series of archival traces of the Raffles Lighthouse, in May 2011 as part of my NUS Museum internship which aims to encourage students to be interested in the arts and allow them to gain greater insights into the workings and resources of a museum.
I had confidently assumed that it was to be a brief project given the narrow focus of the topic. I was surprised at how much could be collected on Pulau Satumu - an islet of 70 by 22 feet and only 30 feet above sea-level. There were countless newspaper articles (800 hits on the online newspaperSG database!) and intriguing academic debates featured in the media as well as various reference materials.
This was not the typical research internship as I had the opportunity to also be involved in an “experimental” exhibition, one that is evolving, filling up with archival traces and engaging with rather than didactically educating visitors. There was now an additional task of presenting the research to the visitors in such a way that it neither over-simplifies nor turns them away with an impenetrable barrier of complexity.
Venturing into uncharted waters, I had to draw up a proposal for a series of panel discussions to be held in conjunction with the prep-room, which also meant researching personalities beyond my disciplinary scope (history), including but not limited to geographers, marine biologists, curators, artists and architects.
Looking back, this internship was filled with interesting surprises from the unexpected research discoveries to the valuable experience of designing an exhibition space and even planning follow-up activities involving professionals and museum partners. This small project has certainly surprised me with a plethora of new experiences, just as the small rock-in-the-ocean proved to be the ideal spot for the Raffles Lighthouse and took on so many different meanings throughout history for various people despite its size.
22 September 2011