We are pleased to co-host with the Humanist Society of Singapore, Professor Jerry Coyne for a public talk on Evolution on 31 October. As spaces are limited, please register for your free ticket via eventbrite! lkcnhm-hss-coyne.eventbrite.sg
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum seeks a full-time intern to help organise volunteer outreach activities for 2016.
Duties and responsibilities
You will assist with the administration, communication, and implementation of outreach events organised by the museum, including event planning, publicity efforts, and logistics support, and volunteer coordination.
They include, but are not restricted to, Love MacRitchie activities, LKCNHM gallery guiding, Ubin Day 2016, Festival of Biodiversity.
Skill sets requirements
The ideal candidate should be interested in nature and the environment in Singapore, and is comfortable interacting with members of the public.
Enthusiasm and the ability to work independently is a requirement, as is basic design skills, experience in web publishing, and familiarity with google docs.
Interview date: From 1 Feb 2016 (to be confirmed)
Duration: 6 months from commencement of position.
How to apply: Send your CV (inclusive of personal statement to) to Dr. Joelle Lai at firstname.lastname@example.org by 29 January 2016.
Role: Gallery guide at Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Purpose and responsibilities: To enhance visitor experience by interacting with the public and giving them more information about the various exhibits and the biodiversity and heritage galleries
Commitment: At least a year
Day/time: Any day except Mondays, for four hours per session
Frequency: At least once a month
Skills and qualification: No particular skills, experience or qualifications needed! However, essential criteria are:
Training: In-house training will be provided over the course of a month (approximately 15 hours). This includes orientation and introduction to the museum, gallery familiarisation, effective guiding techniques (communications skills and questioning strategies), interacting with visitors, zone specialisation, learning from objects, script development, health and safety and gallery procedures.
Interviews: Interviews will be conducted on the second week of August. We will be in touch as soon as we can to schedule it.
We are in the final stages of moving, it is the Lunar New Year. What better way to celebrate a season of reunion and new beginnings than a volunteer tea to thank everyone who have helped us along the way!
The museum hosted a Volunteers Engagement Tea at our Learning Lab on Saturday, 28 Feb 2015, and for the first time ever, we held it at 2 Conservatory Drive, the address of our new home.
The objectives were simple: (1) To thank everyone who tirelessly volunteered their time with the museum, (2) to have a fun and informal gathering session where we solicited feedback on how to better engage volunteers as we move from our modest operations (one floor below the Science Library at the Faculty of Science) to our own building, and (3) a chance for individuals who have never volunteered with us before to find out more information and meet with existing volunteers.
It provided our volunteers and associates a chance to catch up, network, and gain a sneak preview of the new museum! From 9:30 AM to 10:00AM, the Alice Lee Plaza thronged with people who had made their way to our grounds stepping over barricades and orange tape (we are not quite a construction site, but some works are still ongoing). Lynn and Stella cheerfully welcomed everyone and made sure everyone’s name was prominently displayed on the labels. It was a meeting of old friends and new, and set the tone for the programme to follow.
The session kicked off with a welcome by our head, Professor Peter Ng. In his talk, he brought all present up to speed with the developments of the museum, and underscored the importance of continued support to keep the museum going. After more than 50 years, the natural heritage collection from the old Raffles Museum would finally have a permanent home, which would not be possible if not for generous financial contributions from all levels of society. Buoyed, by the occasion, Prof. Ng also invited Professor Leo Tan, Director of Special Projects, who was part of the team that made the museum a reality to speak.
Prof. Tan reminded us that it was essential to dream big, to be a bit crazy, to achieve our goals. The building we were housed in for tea was testament to that aspiration. It was also necessary to garner support for thoughtful environmental stewardship through public education and outreach, and it was something our volunteers had done that through the years to highlight Singapore Biodiversity to the urban Singaporean.
Lastly, Museum officer Dr. Joelle Lai spoke about volunteering at the museum. She highlight several programmes and activities our volunteers had contributed towards over the years to for a better understanding of wildlife and wild places in urban Singapore under the aegis of the museum. These activities ranged from guiding nature walks, cycling at Pulau Ubin, organising International Coastal Cleanup, outreach at various environment festivals (and in recent years, the Festival of Biodiversity), and citizen science activities such as Project Semakau. There were also volunteers who helped with the ‘back end’ of things, curating our massive collection of animals collected from locations, including places in Singapore that no longer exist, being lost to reclamation and development.
A breakout session followed where we obtained feedback from our volunteers and chatted on how to make the museum and outreach efforts stronger and better. It was a hive of activity and we had many useful suggestions from the ground up! Countless great ideas and suggestions streamed in during the 30-minute discussion before the participants were rewarded with a sneak peak of the upcoming museum!
Tea and more mingling followed. It was really great to see everyone still chatting excitedly, meeting old friends and catching up. Some of our volunteers found that they were taught by the same biology teacher at school and were seniors/juniors to each other! It was a lovely gathering of passionate people and we hope that there will be more to come in the future!
Do note though, we are giving out the LKCNHM red packets at the front office of our (now closed) gallery, as our new building isn’t ready yet. Please drop by between 9AM and 5 PM, from Monday to Friday.
Our current address is Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore, Science Drive 2, #03-01, S(117546). We are located one floor below the NUS Science Library.
What is a museum?
The Oxford Dictionary defines it “as a building used for storing and exhibition of objects illustrating antiquities, natural history, art, etc”.
In the modern world, it is often seen as a byword for “old and outdated”. A place to put irrelevant things. A place of obsolescence. A place of history. A place of the dead.
But to understand what a museum really is, one needs to delve into the origins of the word. “Museum” is derived from the ancient Greek word, mouseion – a place, a temple, dedicated to the Muses. What are the Muses? They are the patron divinities in Greek mythology, and all of them personify the arts, philosophy and learning. They were the very embodiment of knowledge.
The new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in the National University of Singapore, which will open in April next year, is a convergence of destinies.
A university is the place of learning. The Latin word for this institution – universitas – means the whole. It symbolises what a true scholar must be, one who can see the whole and prescribes wisdom to the community of which he is part. A temple dedicated to the Muses – the spirits of knowledge – in the courtyard of the whole; what a wonderful synchronicity of purposes.
Yes, Singapore’s natural history museum is a place of the dead, a tomb, where we keep the bodies of over half a million plants and animals. But it is not a mere sarcophagus of decaying carcasses. It is also a place that holds a huge body of knowledge, with great potentialities.
The specimens and associated labels contain important data that we use to better understand our natural world and our place in it. In the bodies of the plants and animals reside a wealth of scientific data – dried skins and dehydrated cells, preserved structures and DNA molecules.
The bodies held for perpetuity are snapshots of what life was at one point in time. The deeply embedded data in the bodies is enormous.
As we develop better tools and contemplate even better questions, we will repeatedly call upon these bodies to help us answer all manner of questions. Some may even save human lives. The secrets of the dead epitomise the wisdom of the ages. Their potential is limited only by the magnitude of our curiosity and intelligence.
This natural history museum, however, is not a static organism. Its collections continue to grow, as our sense of curiosity drives us further into nature’s secret places. To go where few, or none, have gone before; to see what few have seen or none has imagined.
There are few human ventures so exciting – when the subjects of one’s endeavours are not man-made objects hidden by human time but products of evolution, generated over a billion years of uncompromising (and often violent) natural selection.
It is not just about finding unknown lifeforms. It is often about finding wonderfully un-imaginable lifeforms that share the planet with us.
It is sad that we as a species born of Earth know so little about its planet’s own denizens, even as we seek to travel beyond the stars and seek extraterrestrial lifeforms. And it is a tragedy that, in our ignorance, we continue to decimate entire ecosystems, seemingly oblivious to the consequences of our actions. Millions of species, woven into the very fabric of life on Earth, comprising the essence of which we are part. Yet we delude ourselves that we are a benign presence and all our activities are harmless.
People working in museums are not just explorers, they are also in a helter-skelter race against time to discover what is out there. They are the scribes of Mother Nature, recording the planet’s diversity, even if few cared. It is a task borne out of necessity. A museum holds the objects of the scribes, and the scrolls of their efforts. It is a depository of what the planet has. It is a library of our continuing endeavours.
And yes, a museum is also a cemetery. Cemeteries remember the dead. They remember past lives and old glories. And woe betide anyone who dismisses the power of memories. Memories are immensely important. Memories make a person, a people, a country. Without memories, peoples and countries have no soul.
The past is prologue. And it is ironical that memories and knowledge share a bloodline. One of the Muses was Mneme, the bearer of memories.
A museum, any museum, represents the collective memories of many generations. It is also a depository of immense knowledge – both realised and not yet known. It safeguards the past for our future. In it are treasures, both tangible and intangible, that defy valuation.
Strange, then, that the temple of the Muses guards such seemingly anachronistic entities in a modern transactional world, in which almost everything is defined in cold, hard economic terms. Treasures priceless, yet without real value; the perfect paradox for a human society that all too often forgets what it means to be human.
Natural history museums hold dead bodies. They hold the skeletons of dinosaurs. Once there were real dinosaurs. They died. Today, the bird is a dinosaur. So the dead did not die. Their death was misreported. It was exaggerated. Dinosaurs still fly. As does the place of the Muses which holds and guards the secrets of nature.
Copyright © 2014 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
While we are busy moving, our volunteers, the Toddycats have been busy! Here is one event we took part in last month, Ubin Day.
Between 1997 and 2009, the Toddycats organised a quarterly outreach programme called Pedal Ubin!.
We combined our favourite activities: cycling, nature, and public outreach, and set it on Pulau Ubin, the island time forgot. It was a great way to introduce to urban Singaporeans the pleasure of being outdoors, cycling in relative safety amidst the slow pace of the island, and learning about its history.
When we were approached by the organisers of Ubin Day to be part of the celebration, it was very clear that we would bring back a one day edition of Pedal Ubin! A quick round up of the Jungle Fowls (what the Pedal Ubin guides were known as) saw Alvin, Kai Scene, Chee Kong, Marcus (Ng) and Kenneth respond to…
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Text in English
ORNITHOLOGIST Guy Charles Madoc did not let his time as a prisoner of war stop him from writing about his passion.
By May 1943, less than a year after his -capture by the Japanese during World War II, the Briton had illicitly completed a 146-page manuscript titled “An Introduction To Malayan Birds” while being incarcerated in Changi Prison.
Mr Madoc, an officer with the Federated Malaya Police, was 32 at the time and wrote most of it from memories of his bird -watching trips to Malaya’s jungles and rocky islands. Writing materials, such as a typewriter and paper, were borrowed and taken covertly from the Japanese commandant’s office by a fellow prisoner.
The book went on to be published by the Malayan Nature Society and was reprinted in 1947 and 1956. Mr Madoc’s original copy – bound in red leather ripped from the seats of a wrecked car in war-torn Singapore – is still kept within the family.
However, history buffs will be able to get a glimpse of a replica of the original copy when the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum opens its doors next year.
Scanned pages of Mr Madoc’s book, with black-and-white photographs, taxidermied birds, as well as models of the original book cover and the typewriter he used, will go on display in the museum’s Heritage Gallery.
It will be the first time that Mr Madoc’s works will be displayed in a museum, and for his daughter Fenella Madoc-Davis, the icing on the cake is that her father ‘s works will be showcased in Singapore’s first natural history museum.
The 65-year-old said: “It’s amazing that there is still interest in (my father ‘s works) more than 70 years since he first wrote it.”
The retired primary school teacher said that her father ‘s love for birds was cultivated from the time he was young by his father Henry, also an avid birdwatcher.
Among his favourite bird species was the pied hornbill, “which had a strange squawk”; the brown booby; and the Madoc’s blue rock thrush – which was named after him after he discovered it in 1940.
Mr Madoc was a native of the Isle of Man, an island sandwiched between England and Ireland, and he first arrived in Penang by boat in 1931. The then bachelor had harboured aspirations to follow in his policeman father ‘s footsteps and, after joining the British colonial office, he was sent to South-east Asia.
Four years later, after a six-month trip back to Britain, Mr Madoc returned to Malaya a married man, having tied the knot with his childhood sweetheart during the break. A year later, the couple had a son, David. ·
Then, tragedy struck – twice. First, the Japanese seized Mr Madoc as a prisoner of war in 1942. Then, in 1943, David died of diabetes at the age of six.
Mr Madoc’s colourful literary work, produced in such dark times , proved an inspiration for his daughter.
Mrs Madoc-Davis, who is married with two children, said: “His ability to rise above the deprivation, difficulty, and fear of being beaten up and tortured at that time was amazing.”
In 1945, Mr Madoc was released from the prisoner of war camp, after spending three and a half years there.
He returned to Britain for four months, but the lure of South-east Asia, its culture and variety of birds eventually drew him back to the tropics.
Upon his retirement from the colonial police in 1959, he went back to the Isle of Man, where he spent the next 40 years volunteering as a marshall at motorcycle races, and gardening.
He died in 1999 of a stroke, at the age of 88.
Paying tribute to her father, Mrs Madoc-Davis said: “He taught me to love the great outdoors and to have a sense of adventure… and I’ve also learnt to love things that live in nature, especially birds, animals and plants.”
The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum seeks an intern to help organise outreach and education activities for 2015
Duties and responsibilities
You will assist with the administration, communication, and implementation of outreach events organised by the museum, including event planning, publicity efforts, and logistics support. These events include the Kent Ridge Walks, Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium 2015, International Coastal Cleanup, and others.
Skill sets requirements
The ideal candidate should be interested in nature and the environment in Singapore and is comfortable interacting with members of the public. Enthusiasm and the ability to work independently is a requirement, as is basic design skills, experience in web web publishing, and familiarity with google docs.
Interview date: 22 December 2014
Duration 6 – 12 months commencing January 2015.
To apply, please send a cover letter and CV to Dr. Joelle Lai at nhmlcyj[at]nus.edu.sg. Shortlisted applicants will be notified for the…
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The Festival of Biodiversity came and went on 12 and 13 July, and what a fun-filled, action packed two days they were, along with some very exciting news – that Singapore will finally have its first Marine Park!
This being the third Festival and the second one to be held at Vivocity, we learnt from experience to expect a large crowd of Festival goers (and ‘stumblers’, as many people who visited the Festival chanced upon us while out doing their weekend shopping and mall crawl). We saw 11 thousand people visit us throughout the weekend in 2013, and this year, with a larger exhibition area and more activities afoot, we looked forward to an even busier FoB!
What made this year’s Festival special for us is the fact that it is the first major public outreach event Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum has participated in since we officially came into being (from our previous incarnation, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research). It was wonderful to see so many people, young and old, locals and overseas visitors, from all walks of life being fascinated by the many specimens we had on display for show and tell, and looking forward to 2015 when we officially open and welcome them in our new building. And of course, our tremendous effort this year would not have been possible without our army of cheerful volunteers who committed themselves to pre-festival training and preparations, who tirelessly and enthusiastically regaled facts and anecdotes about Singapore’s to all who stopped by our booths and specimen corners.
Here are some pictures from last weekend. If you missed this year’s FoB, not to worry. We look forward to seeing you again next year!