Even before I matriculated, I worked at the Zoological Reference Collection at Block S6, Level 3, host to the zoological collections of the former Raffles Library and Museum.
After decades of wandering about during ‘The Lost Years’, the collection had found a permanent home in Faculty of Science at NUS, along with the Science Library. My friends in NUS arranged for me to get a job arranging old mammal specimens into the custom-made electronic cabinets, and I was instructed by Ms Lua. The Japanese workers working on the cupboards called me “Superman” because of my Clark Kent-like glasses.
That was 1987, a quarter-century ago.
I would use and help out at the museum over the years and eventually worked there for about a decade. During that time, The Public Gallery of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research was unveiled.
In the 1980’s that was simply space for lockers and benches where my faculty mates and myself would hang out and study.
We used that space well, even in the poor light of golden orbs at night. We coped although a fire alarm going off in Chemistry forced us home one night.
By the late 90’s, that space was denied to students to became temporary office space for CRISP. When they moved out, thankfully the space went to the museum along with enough money to plan for a Public Gallery.
I delayed going to this inter-tidal place called Chek Jawa in order to get the gallery established in June. It was then I wrote up the Toddycat and the Palm Leaf to symbolise our return to outreach after a long hiatus as a pure research repository. Kelvin Lim drew up the logo and Peter Ng coloured part of it on Photoshop.
Angeline Tay, Airani S and Tan Swee Hee preparing souvenir magnets
A bunch of graduate students and other volunteers worked at preparations in the museum and you can see photos in the gallery here with legends [Flickr]. Their names would still be familiar to all in natural history today.
Well, that was a busy year – many of them were also guides at the first teacher’s workshop in Semakau in May, were Pulau Ubin cycling/heritage guides in June, guides for brisk walks through the forest in June, conducted faunal surveys at Chek Jawa in July and August, and then natural history guides for the public there in September and October and were International Coastal Cleanup Site Buddies at Kranji in September.
And that was just part of it.
The guides educated a phenomenal and somewhat frightening turnout
of interested public at Chek Jawa in Sep-Oct 2001
We used the space at the gallery well over time and I particularly relished the night trails and heartlander tours, part of NHB/Museum Roundtable’s International Museum Week.
That festival would be critical to our landing a new space in 2014 – a long story I am making an effort to relate to the young Toddycats.
Realising the museum was REALLY going to leave the Faculty of Science, I roused some of the old guiding team for a “last chance to see” series of tours at the gallery and collections at Block S6. I posted to Habitatnews on Tuesday and spaces will be filled by today.
We will guide only about 300 people over the week in small groups, including folks from the Museum Roundtable, Raffles Museum Toddycats and the public. It will be a spontaneous walk through a museum already preparing for the move.
We will definitely have some fun in two weeks time, and remember this precious space well during The Last Hurrah!
One of the evening tours is reserved for the young Toddycats. They will go on to play a role in the new museum. It will certainly remind me of Toddycats Appreciation Dinner & Ghostly Night Tour of 2005.
Yes, it’s about time to feed them again.
Their enduring presence makes the museum a living entity. Typically, when they start speaking, the museum cheers up considerably!