“Grim River” and other grim errors at important National Museum of Singapore archaeology exhibition: A symptom of troubles at the top?

This exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore opened to some fanfare (click here). The exhibition chronicling 700 years of Singapore’s history is not just any ol’ exhibition; it is “the main exhibition on show as the rest of the museum’s permanent galleries have been closing in phases to undergo a revamp”. So you would think that some (if not “a lot of”) effort would be spent on it because there’s really not much else to see at the museum for some time to come.

So it was a surprise that the Straits Times reported on sloppy proofreading/research at the exhibition (click here). “The mistakes include Perak’s Slim River appearing as “Grim River”; the Singapore Symphony Orchestra as “Singapore Symphonic Orchestra”; and a map on some Asian colonies that became independent between 1946 and 1950 running as “1946 to 1960”, on display panels.

Well, it was not much of a surprise really. Insiders have told me that the museum director Angelita Teo does not focus much on the ‘curatorial’ part of her museum, which means that the basic things like ‘exhibition text’ and ‘facts’ are not given much scrutiny (which leads to glaring errors getting displayed on the walls). Even if the exhibition curator/s made an honest mistake with proofreading and/or fact-checking, there should always be other pairs of eyes to scrutinise the text (such as the Director of the museum, external proofreaders etc). Consider that during her predecessor’s time (ie. ex-Director Chor-Lin Lee), I do not recall such sloppiness at National Museum making shameful news in the media. However, such errors had plagued other Singapore museums in the past (click here for a Straits Times article in 2009, pointing out that both govt- and privately funded museums in Singapore are ‘text’ and ‘fact’ sloppy).

So what is Angelita busy with, that she would let such ‘grim’ errors slip through her gaze? A little birdie told me that she is quite the busy little bee preparing for a private event in New Zealand of a very personal nature. Whatever the case is, she has big shoes to fill (esp since she is – at least to me – a surprise pick for the Director position due to her youth and lack of PhD [unlike her peers at SAM, National Gallery, ACM]), and she should be on her toes all the time.

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One response to ““Grim River” and other grim errors at important National Museum of Singapore archaeology exhibition: A symptom of troubles at the top?

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