02 December 2005

Thoughts on Raffles Museum exhibitions at fairs

Toddycats are setting up just posters at the Giving Tree @ North East 2005 this time, and guides, critical to any exhibit,will be there. No specimens no large photo blowups but we are lucky even to be there; it was pretty much a last minute decision with some heroics and Eco-Challenge had been holding the fort for us as liason.

One of the reasons I decided to get on board with this is it will serve as a first step in reviving outreach at fairs. It's been a long time since Raffles Museum Toddycats have participated in an exhibition to reach out to the public. Thankfully, in the past couple of years, Wild Singapore and Blue Water Volunteers have been very active in this arena over marine issues and have very nice and informative exhibits that they have setup in numerous places tirelessly. I've called on them myself and they setup their colourful booth during Terry Hughes coral reef public talk on 15th June 2005.

For the Humanimal Fair at The Substation's Sept Fest 2004, we were too busy with the coastal cleanup but thankfully, Wildlife Singapore got things coordinated and a joint booth was setup in the courtyard with BWV and WildSIngapore. That fair had a very charming feel!

The first and best Toddycats experience so far was at Museum Fest in 2002. We prepared exhibits in our usual Public Gallery style - print and mount photos and text and Ria loaned me her expensive screens complete with lights. We also brought out specimens from the museum and videos of local documentaries that we have collaborated on - these caught people's attention immediately and proved to be a magnet! With the interesting exhibit, voluble guides, the large crowds at Suntec City and the combined draw of many museums in one place, we ended up taking to an estimated 2,000 people in three days!

The dugong specimen in particular was a hit - the tragic orphan had died in our waters decades ago and was well preserved in a glass jar. That raised so many questions that led into a discussion to not only dugongs, but also about sea grass, marine ecosystems and the fate of these areas and marine life in Singapore and the world.

It helped that we had lots of manpower - we had a mixture of new and old guides - museum staff, senior guides, some Secondary two Chinese High students and two Singapore Polytechnic students on attachment, and a whole bunch of brand new Toddycats!

Museum Fest also served as an interview session for some new Toddycats and these novices were tasked to interact with the public after some rather basic background reading! That was quite exhausting but a lot of information as conveyed. I remember Oi Yee taking up post to explain ad elaborate on the exciting scenes on the television we brought down to screen the mangrove episode of Secret Worlds, a documentary by Charith Pelpola that we had collaborated on in 2001.

It was particularly delightful talking to the children. They were fascinated by the animal photos and specimens and when we talked about their biology and where they could be found in SIngapore, their eyes widened! I met my JC classmate who brought her daughters to finally get their questions answered!

It's a pity Museum Fest was discontinued. That was a wonderful platform and we were then prepared to repeat it year after year. And it led to raising awareness of the Raffles Museum's profile to thee Minster of Information and the Arts, with the help of National Heritage Board's CEO, Mr Lim Siam Kim.

In November 2003, we set up an ICCS exhibit at East Coast Park for the launch of NParks/NEA's "Litter Free Parks" campaign. Toddycats exhibits team worked on mounting ICCS information, and I got photos of marine life mainly from Chek Jawa from Alan Yeo and "Singapore Waters" posters from NSS' Marine Group. I remember dragging the heavy exhibit frames out from Sungei Buloh and later struggling with Patick Neo and Anand to set it up. The icing on the cake was the colourful and insightful RGS' reflections posters that their teacher and ICCS coordinator, Mariette Ong brought down for me.

RGS students came down to act as exhibit guides and amongst the visitrors was the CEO of NEA who found the information fascinating. I had earlier visited the Public Education Branch and gave them all our information as we are all working towards the cleanup of our shorelines.

I recycled the exhibit the same day when I bundled it into a taxi and set it up that evening at the Singapore International Foundation. We were giving a forum about Chek Jawa so it was perfect for the occasion!

Later that December (2003), the exhibit was set up at Sungei Buloh's 10th anniversary and Mr Mah Bow Tan visited the exhibit and I was abler to explain about the sources of the pollution. A surprisingly large proportion was originating from land!

Most of the RGS students who served as exhibit guides were later trained in the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk programme that year which was the 10th anniversary; and some are still involved this year!

Sungei Buloh and Labrador were designated Nature Reserves in November 2001. This was the first time in Singapore's post-colonial history that nature areas had been given such protection. Unprecedented, surprising, and a cause for celebration after decades of loss.

When we interviewed 115 people at Suntec City during Museum Fest 2002, only 9% had visited either site. All were surprised by the animal life depicted in specimens, videos and photos at eh exhibit. This the museum exhibit on Wildlife in Singapore at well frequented locations on high-profile public events are an effective way to share information about Singapore's biodiversity with our urban population.

I guess this is a less than subtle hint to the Toddycats about reviving the exhibits team!

1 comment:

Papa Jeff said...

Glad to see Toddy Cats on the public circuit. RMBR has a magnificant resource - in both its people and its specimens - that should be shared with the wider public. As more and more Singaporeans lose touch with Nature, it is timely that conservation NGOs such as WildSingapore, Blue Water Volunteers and Toddy Cats push the message to Singaporeans that our biodiversity is not completely gone. See you around at more exhibitions!

Cheers, Jeff