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Author/Editor: N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.


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05 Jul 2007 - Raffles Museum News has shifted to http://news.rafflesmuseum.net

Thu 01 Jun 2006

IMD Regional Bus Tours: Heartlanders reach the museum!

Category : toddycats

22 May 2006 - In the carpark a bunch of us (Peter Ng, Tan Swee Hee, Karen Lim, Lim Boo Liat (who had just turned up)) caught sight of a tour bus drawing up to the foot of our building at Science Drive 2. Brightly coloured and very large, what was this bus doing in our part of the woods on a weekday afternoon?!

Well, it was the Regional Museum Bus Tour offered as part of the Museum Roundtable's International Museum Day 2006. This regional route offered the public a pick up from Jurong East MRT, and then visited the Chinese Heritage Centre, Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts, Raffles Museum Biodiversity Research and Memories at Old Ford Factory before returning to Bukit Batok MRT station. There were other concurrent tours as well, and this was a grand idea by the folks at the National Heritage Board. They are always busy cooking up goodies for members of the public. And it's all FREE!

Besides advertisements in the press and web, signs were put up at the MRT stations, and regular commuters must have seen the signs. Toddycat Wong Yueat Tin was pleasantly surprised when she spotted one of the banners one day at Jurong East MRT station and sent me photos. The NHB team certainly were covering important points on the island!

When I saw the bus, I could not but feel slightly nervous at the thought of a bunch of lost heartlanders wandering campus in search of our rather elusive museum! So I peeked behind the bus and was relieved to find that Toddycat Hwang Wei Song looking slightly bemused, was guiding them to the museum as arranged. He reassured me that it was all under control and chased me off.

Wei Song and and Gwyne Lim debriefed me a few nights ago (30 May 2006) amidst much laughter. Apparently some of the groups who came consisted of elderly folk who really needed a Mandarin guide. On the spot, our pair of guides found themselves translating many technical words into Mandarin! Wei Song took on that challenge while Gwynne made herself useful by running a Hokkien version of the guided tour for one of the elderly and outspoken guests!

Two common trends from public talks were observed as well - the elderly folk peppered their guides with lots of questions, being familiar with many of the specimens on display, having eaten or encountered many of these in their carefree childhood. So they are reminiscing even as they asking questions; and the guides learn quite a bit amidst the confusion! In this case, a knowledge of the dialect names are as important as the scientific names. We should add large, laminated old photos to the guides kit to illustrate the site from which the specimens were collected, e.g the very different looking Pasir Panjang where the shark was collected. These specimens and photos are a catalyst for the unveiling of memories.

Children typically overwhelm the guides with a continuous stream of questions, fit to challenge the wits of any guide. For the IMD Regional Bus Tours, both are fresh biology graduates, who are better equipped than the average gallery guide to cope with such a salvo. However, it requires a combination of guiding techniques and knowledge to cope with these hungry minds - they laughed at the memory, after surviving it. Its a fact that we ritually expose new guides to young children as a baptism of fire!

The guides felt these IMD tours with their image of heritage and culture are particularly productive as most visitors have little or no recent exposure to nature in Singapore. Also, the afternoon weekday tours unearth heartlanders who would have otherwise never found their way to our little corner in the university! This tour brought them right to our doorstep with a guide to welcome them and walked them right up to the gallery. The visitors found the Raffles Museum's Public Gallery a significant revelation, more so than the regular visitor and the guides found it particularly rewarding to share with them the many fascinating and exciting stories about nature and the environment.

So thanks to the NHB staff in the Museum Roundtable secretariat for egging us to plan early for a series of special activities for the International Museum Day (more like ten days!) and for supporting us in all our efforts. The prompting, early planning and support saw the Raffles Museum Toddycats run lunch time tours at the Public Gallery, guide for the regional bus tours and the M.I.A. night trail in collaboration with other museums.

Efforts like these are always a bit if a risk, but from all of us at the Raffles Museum, we're giving it a hearty two thumbs up!

Thanks to Kenneth Pinto for editing the draft post.

Posted at 8:35AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,