A permanent editor at the National Museum of Singapore: Much needed, or a knee-jerk to past embarrassments?

Well, after the editorial/copywriting debacle at the National Museum of Singapore (click here for my previous blog) – where Slim River ended up as Grim River, amongst others – NMS has done the knee-jerk thingie. They have created a new position “Assistant Manager/ Manager (Editorial)” (click here). As far as I know, only Asian Civilisations Museum has a similar position where a permanent staff is tasked to look at all text before they get printed/uploaded (but even then this ACM position appears to be a first for NHB as a whole, and seems to be a bit unwarranted … until you find out the relationship between the Director/ACM and this editing staff: Alan was hired from Boston to be D/ACM, and later he hired ex-Boston colleague Richard to be the new “Asst Director/Editorial & Interpretation”).

Anyway, editing has all got to do with ‘pairs of internal and external eyes’. Internally, the curator writes the text, the senior curator and/or the director edits it. Now with the new position in NMS, I assume the editor reads/edits it too. But even though it has gone through quite a few pairs of eyes, the editors are all reading from the ‘museum’s perspective’, and they may miss errors and/or pitch content at wrong levels. I think it is still best to get an outsider (ie external editor) to read it, because s/he provides a vital ‘non-museum’  perspective. This internal/external-editors system has worked well for NHB in general, and I’m not sure if getting a permanent editor would solve the problem of sloppy text/wrongly-pitched content (if this position means that the text then does not get routed to an external person). But from the Director/NMS’s perspective, Angelita will have a ready answer when her boss asks her what she will do to prevent such embarrassing errors in the future.

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