The graduation ceremony for Batches 28 and 29 took place on 10 March. Karen, in her opening speech, was happy to note that a high percentage of trainees graduated this year – 27 out of 30 from Batch 28 and 8 out of 9 from Batch 29. In addition, 16 out of 18 trainees from Batch 30 received their certificate of completion. She also noted that Batches 28 and 29 were the only batches to have trained in February and that the training programme will revert to September this year with Batches 31, 32, and 33. Karen highlighted that the current two-tier graduation will no longer be practised and that Batch 30 will be the last batch to receive course completion certificates. Moving forward, trainees will only receive graduation certificates. Moving forward, JMM has requested more Mandarin-speaking guides. In addition, Karen is looking at the MV extending tours to Muzium Tekstil and Muzium DiRaja.
Representatives of the various batches shared their experiences. Below are the speeches made by Rama and Afidah, both from Batch 28.
Ramanathan L Manickavasagan (Batch 28)
About 14 months ago, on the 21st of January, 2017, the group known as “Batch 28 volunteers” met together for the first time. We were shown the schedule of training which we must attend and we were told what we must fulfil in order to qualify as guides.
We gasped when we heard that we would have to submit written texts and give oral presentations lasting 3 minutes for one artefact, 5 minutes for two artefacts and 15 minutes for a whole gallery. We shuddered when told we had to present without notes.
We were pleased when we learned that we would have mentors who would teach and encourage us. Our pleasure grew over the weeks as we realised how capable our trainers were, just as our anxiety grew because we saw they exhibited such high standards.
On 20th June 2017 we completed our formal training. By then
- We had written 3 papers, varying in length from 500 words to 3,000 words
- We had communicated often through WhatsApp messages.
- We had accompanied at least 3 guides as they conducted public tours.
- We had read much both in books and through online research.
- We had completed our single gallery, 15 minute presentations and received feedback from our classmates as well as our trainers.
- We felt like “maybe we can do this.”
Then we scheduled time with our trainer-mentors for us to do solo guides of the whole museum so they could watch us, give us feedback and decide when we would be ready to be rostered as museum guides.
Today each of us from Batch 28 has conducted at least 3 tours on our own. We have guided visitors from across a wide spectrum of humanity: young, old, eager, passive, aggressive, silent, interrogative, patient, impatient, well-read and unread.
We’ve often had the interaction I again had yesterday when I was guiding:
- 10 am
- Guide: What made you come to the museum?
- Visitor: Reading about how much visitors enjoyed the free guided tours.
- 12 noon (it usually takes 2 hours, not the hoped for 1 hr 20 minutes)
- Guide: Did the tour meet your expectations?
- Visitor: Oh, it’s even better than I expected.
We reverberate with joy when that happens. The joy comes not only from personal satisfaction. It comes also from the fact that each guide is a member of a community of guides who strive to excel in knowledge, presentation and service.
As I lay in bed last night thinking about the discourse during the morning’s guided tour, I recalled this passages from a book I read some years ago:
History is the study of humans and time, indeed, of humans changing over time. Furthermore, history is the memory of the stories about people changing over a time span. In a certain sense, history would not be possible if it were not for the telling of it. … History untold is not history at all. History … is vital to our human existence. To have no story is, almost, to have no life. People suffering from amnesia can live and function, but they lead pitiable lives because they have lost contact with their own story. (Wells, History Through the Eyes of Faith, page 2)
A year on, I realise we are story tellers, our subject matter is history and our goal is the removal of amnesia.
Becoming a museum guide has made us more thoughtful persons, more careful in what we say and driven to study. This is a day to be celebrated. I thank all of you, trainers and trainees alike, who have made it possible for us to join the ranks of amnesia-removers.
Afidah Zuliana bt Abdul Rahim (Batch 28)
It has been my secret ambition to be a museum volunteer for about 22 years now. In 1996, the President of Korea Gas Corporation, Mr. Han Kap-Soo requested a visit to Muzium Negara. As a young Petronas executive, I was assigned to show Mr. Han around the museum. It was a daunting task as I had to rely on my Form 3 Malaysian history to inform this distinguished gentleman. Thankfully, I managed to pull through and surprisingly enjoyed myself, so much so that I secretly wished to be able to do more museum tours. Of course, the MV did not exist then. It was only last year that I finally had the opportunity to sign up as an MV trainee. Thank you Karen and team for making my dream a reality.
It has been a challenging journey for Batch 28 but I am sure you would agree that it has been well worth the effort. Thanks to our inspiring lecturers, MV trainers and librarians, our knowledge of Malaysian history has improved tremendously. Also, our presentation skills have been honed over the past year. Special thanks to my mentor, Jega. Thank you Poh Leng, Jean-Marie and Douglas for your dedication and patience in training us. Thank you to En. Jamil, Fiza & Jane of JMM for hosting us.
This MV training has certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. Notably, when one of my visitors, having been on my tour, decided to introduce me to a Harvard-trained anthropologist so that we can talk shop! With nerves of steel, I drew upon my MV training to get through our lunch and I am happy to say that we are still in touch. The training also gave me the confidence to seek out a curator from the Asian Civilisations Museum and engage in conversations with Singapore docents.
My world has expanded with this experience. I joined the MV trips to Sin Sze Si Ya temple and Royal Museum – places I had not visited, even as a local. Above all, the MV training has given me a deeper appreciation of Malaysian history and culture. As a Malaysian, I am proud of our rich heritage.
So far, I feel that I have gained more than I have given. Now, it’s payback time! I tell almost everyone I meet about our free guided tours. I look forward to my monthly guiding duty and to future MV events. There is still so much more to learn.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Sama-sama, kita berkhidmat untuk negara.