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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 20 Jul 2006

"when ... a docent started speaking it cheered up considerably."

Category : toddycats

austin_dern wrote a post his blog, coati mundane, "i can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea" on 20th May 2006, after a guided tour of the Public Gallery as part of International Museum Day.

"they sent invitations offering guided tours for International Museum Day, which runs from 18 May to 28 May, and stretches the definition of "day"' far past reasonable limits. Why not simply International Museum Week?"

Heh-heh. We were all scratching our heads over that one too.

He had a question:

"The palm civet's card claims it's "still fairly common in Singapore where it is known to live in the roof space of houses, and has been seen walking on telegraph cables at night,'' raising the question of how old the card is.

The card is probably c. 2001 and that's happily still true. Although we hardly see common palm civets or Toddycats, they are reasonably common in landed property with lots of greenery and in nature areas and parks and the areas adjacent to these especially if there are fruit trees which Toddycats love! One of my cycling buddies living near Kent Ridge has just reported one such regular nocturnal visitor to her garden - she finally figured out what the dog was barking at!

This last wild carnivore in urban Singapore is what we put on the museum logo, and we also adopted the name for our volunteers, the Toddycats! The museum logo's image is based on an actual orphan three of us from the Department of Zoology looked after in the 90's. We called him Toddy and he was tragically killed by a dog in 1996.

austin_dern also wrote that he found that the gallery projected "a sense of morbidity that's hard to escape" but the Toddycat gallery guides will be happy to hear that after a few visitors turned up, he said that when a "docent started speaking it cheered up considerably"!

"The Museum is devoted to Southeast Asian biodiversity and the impressive wildlife that used to live in Singapore. They have taxidermy exhibits of animals, some of which are thought to still live in the nature reserves or nearby islands. The animals give a sense of morbidity that's hard to escape; at best, each of the animals represents death from natural causes, and many were killed by accidents or were shot to become exhibits. Combined with few visitors and it's not quite comfortable, but when the group (about six people) assembled and a docent started speaking it cheered up considerably."

During a visit to several museums in the US last September, I found that the role of docents to be invaluable. Even in sections where considerable amount of money had been spent in wonderful designs, and great effort invested in exhibition design to enhance the visitor's experience, docents with a cart of specimens were still a vital element.

Most museums are actively seeking and generating funds to stay afloat and in the process balancing commercial and education objectives (e.g. shop space eating into exhibition floor space) - the volunteers contribute manpower hours that no museum could ever afford.

Our volunteers have been doing more and more and need help. So the Raffles Museum will be recruiting volunteers for the gallery, exhibitions and all the field outreach activities. This means in the weeks ahead, I will be running the recruitment, interviews and orientation sessions and then upgrading and executing the training workshops for the Public Gallery, Public Exhibitions, Pasir Panjang Heritage, Coastal Cleanup and Pedal Ubin in particular.

This means lots of weekday nights and weekends with the new recruits - this time however, I will have the company anbd help of the senior Toddycats like volunteer Project Manager Wei Song. He's away right now enjoying the reefs and forests of Pulau Tioman, and we start on this when he returns!

Posted at 12:57AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,