A meal and some sharing

The delay to the annual potluck this year was fortuitous as it could be coincided with the Attendance Certificate Presentation Ceremony for trainee batches 28 and 29. Hence, Saturday 30 Sep saw the Discovery Room flooded with an array of palate-tantalising food, showcasing the culinary talents of many a volunteer. Seasoned volunteers interacted with trainees over this sumptuous lunch while waiting for the presentation ceremony to begin.

A small selection of the dishes brought by volunteers
Master of Ceremonies, Poh Leng, addressing the attendees at the start of the presentation ceremony

In her opening speech, Karen Loh noted that batches 28 and 29 had started their training sessions in February 2017. This made them unique as training has traditionally started in September every year and will revert to the 9th month next year. Karen thanked the trainers for their dedication and hard work. In congratulating the trainees, she reminded them that they are encouraged to attend Focus events and to contribute to the blog, Facebook, and the Screamer.

Four trainees were invited to share their thoughts on the training they had just completed. First up was Marianne Khor. Let’s hear it in her own words:

“When I was asked to give a short 3-minute speech today, I was reminded of the first time I had to give a speech of that length, ‘the 3-minute presentation’. Most of us panicked at the thought of cramming 600 words into 3 minutes. We had to edit it, but then, would it be too short or still too long? Well, I just hope that I will not be timed today! We have all come a long way since these first 3-minute presentations, after all we are here today, receiving our certificates. Not so long ago we were a group of strangers with just a common interest. Now we are friends, and when I look at all of us here from Batch 28, I see that we represent what we learned about the history of Malaysia. Just like the people who made this country, we too are from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. What unites all of us here is our love for history and culture, and the desire to share Malaysia’s history and culture with all those who come to this museum in order to learn more about it.

In all these months we have been presented with a lot of information. We studied and read stacks of books. It was an amazing experience and I am still surprised at how much knowledge was conveyed in such a relatively short time. It has made me appreciate and understand the people and this country that has been my home for 42 years, even more. But it was the dedicated speakers, sharing their knowledge and passion with us week after week, who gave life to all the facts that we had learned and put everything into place, like a puzzle that finally comes together. And it was never boring. Every time that a subject was announced which promised to be a bit dry, we were always pleasantly surprised at how the particular speaker made it interesting and exciting. Our trainers and mentors Poh Leng, Karen, Jega, Jean Marie and Douglas, have done an amazing job in guiding us through the maze of facts and dates and always kept us motivated and interested. On behalf of Batch 28, I would like to thank you, Poh Leng, Karen, Jega, Jean Marie and Douglas, and all the museum staff that have been involved in our journey to get us where we are today. You were always there for us when we needed help and guidance!”

Next was Lee Ean Keong and this is what he had to say:

“Well, to start with, I would like to thank the MV trainers, Jega, Poh Leng, Jean-Marie and Douglas for doing a fantastic job moulding us, Batch 28, into Museum Volunteer Guides. When we started our course on 14 Feb. this year, some of us thought we knew the history of our country……. until we completed the course and realised that at the begining, we actually knew so little of our history and now we know so much more. We can talk to anyone about our country’s history with confidence and with facts. And all thanks to our training course and our trainers. It was an excellent and effective training programme and very dedicated MV Trainers. And also on behalf of Batch 28, I would like to thank Mr. Yee, who was always there taking photos and giving valuable advice and our Librarians who have been so helpful and accommodating. Not forgetting our MV speakers esp. Karen, Rose Gan and Kon Sze Yan and the trainers and all the other external speakers who made their topics so very interesting.

But most of all, I would like to mention that we have a mix group of friends in Batch 28 who are from different nationalities. We have Malaysians, French, Canadian, German, Moroccan, Korean, from Beijing, China, a lady from Kazakhstan. They are all very helpful and supportive. We even have a chat group filled with information on history and museum activities and getting us all still connected even after we have finished our course. So, finally, on behalf of Batch 28, I would like to once again thank all our trainers and say “you are an inspiration to us all. We hope one day we can be as good as you and make you proud”.”

Representing the French in batch 28 was Christine Henry-Bourdon, who shared anecdotes from the French group.

My experience
Last month, while in France, I visited two museums in Paris. One is the Asian Arts museum (called musée Guimet). One can argue about the presence of these treasures outside their homelands, but I must admit that I appreciated greatly the possibility of seeing such a large quantity of marvellous objects from India and South-east Asia in a single place.

The second museum is the Musée du Quai Branly, a museum dedicated to the indigenous arts around the world. Again, I concentrated, of course, on South-east Asia. As I was wandering around the displays, assessing the statues from tribal Borneo, my eyes caught sight of a big artefact in the middle of the room. A year ago, I would have thought: “What a strange and bulky table!”. Not anymore: my eyes widened and I am sure I said aloud: “it cannot be!”. But it was! A complete, big, beautifully preserved Dong Son drum. And I could understand its age, its usage, its meaning, its significance for the bronze age, for the beginning of trading in South-east Asia. By the way, it came from Java and was dated between the 4th century BCE and the 2nd century CE.

Why do I tell you this story? Because it summarizes what might be the biggest of the many benefits I got from following this formation. I have asked my fellow French-speaking trainees, and they told me the same thing. One said: “when I look at what I used to call a Malay dagger, I see today what is behind what I now call a keris : the legends, the magic, the craftsmanship, the religions that left their traces in the decoration, the meaning of the waves, its value for the Malay culture, its usage in the local martial art Silat. We can now understand objects and places, link them to what we have learned and see their beauty.

Anecdotes from the French-speaking group
We were very enthusiastic about learning more about the culture of our current home country. One of us was so anxious not to be late for the first lesson, that she arrived one hour earlier, and sat for the full hour in her car. Being French, we tend to be obsessed by food. So, the yummy breaks were always welcomed and discussed in our group. And as you saw during the lunch, French patisserie is still a very present heritage. We like talking, and of course, it is even better if it is in French. During the mentoring, one of us spent one full hour for the visit of one gallery. But I am sure that it is not specific to the French speakers, is it?

What about a few surprises?
There is evidence, in the written presentations, that the oldest science known to mankind is, by far, archaeology, as the Java man has been “quote FOUND 500,000 years ago”. On the lesson on Fire safety, the surprise to find motorbikes parked all along the Emergency exits,
The surprise to see a real prince with a historic ring explaining to us the story of the Malay population. The surprise of holding the hilt of a very antic and valuable kris, hilt that just got separated from the blade! The last surprise will be on October the 10th, when, at last, we will manage, we hope, to finalise the very expected trip to Malacca!

All of that wouldn’t have been possible without a few groups and structures that gave us this amazing opportunity.
Jabatan Muzium Malaysia and the Museum volunteers’ association, of course, for the organisation, the facilities, their help, their dedication…
The librarians, for their patience, their knowledge and their strictness in making sure that the books circulated as needed. The speakers, who were so knowledgeable in their fields, and who covered together such a broad range of expertise, from archaeology, to religions, history of the Malay kingdoms, of the different colonisations, of the Kris and silat….
The tutors/mentors/teachers, who were present, patient, enthusiastic, so keen to share their knowledge, and to accept our limited but growing understanding of historical and cultural Malaysia. Thanks to our families, who accepted this invading passion and followed us in museums, were our guinea pigs for the presentations, and learned who is Francis Light and what is Dulang washing…
And finally, thank-you to all of you, students and teachers, for accepting us, who come from another world, and for allowing and guiding us during the discovery of this wonderful country we all call, for a shorter or a longer period, our home. From now on, as guides, we will try and share our knowledge and enthusiasm with the visitors, with the hope that they will leave the museum with a better understanding of the country and the wish to learn and see even more of it.

Kayoko Omata represented batch 29, the Japanese Group.

“As I was given 2 themes for today’s speech, first of all, I would like to start from why I joined this MVJ’s program. The main reason was very simple, because I wanted to know more about Malaysia. Actually, every member from Batch 29 has the same reason to join the program.

Myself, I came to Malaysia as an expat family in March 2016. Before that, we were in Myanmar. But it was a short period, and I had not much time to learn the history of Burma. And I feel very regret about that. As I have visited and lived in many parts of regions in the world, I have a belief that “the more I learn the country’s history, the more I can understand each culture’s uniqueness and the people living there.”That will lead to respect for each country. So when I saw the information for applicants on Japanese community Newspaper, I would like to contribute for both Malaysia and Japan, so that Japanese people would be able to deepen their understanding for Malaysia.

To be honest, 5 months training was tough for all Batch 29 members. But through this training, and after experiencing several times of solo guide, we feel very fortunate we could meet a lot of people coming from a different background. Also it was a great experience for us, we could study not only the history of Malaysia, but also the history of south-east Asia and the World. And it broadens our views and knowledge. This year is the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Japan. We really appreciate tremendous kind supports from trainers during these 5months, and we’re looking forward to contributing for both countries friendly relations through this volunteer activities from now on.”

Congrats to all the graduates. Hope you enjoy your guiding sessions. Lastly, a big thank-you to Yee Chun Wah for being on hand to photograph the occasion.

Batch 28 (and their trainers) – happy to be full-fledged volunteers
Batch 29, elegantly dressed in baju kebaya, with their trainers
The food went fast

 

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Author: Museum Volunteers, JMM

Museum Volunteers, JMM Taking the Mystery out of History

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