Museum artefacts tell stories of diversity, common space

The answer to the question asked in the commentary on Nov 13 ("Can museums create common ground in diverse societies?") is a resounding "yes".

One group of people who can attest to this statement is the volunteer guides or docents with the Friends of the Museums society here, many of whom hail from different countries, with diverse cultures and religions.

The curation of artefacts along specific themes and the staging of various associated events also lend themselves to creating the common space.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the current exhibition at the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC).

As a docent standing in front of artefacts showing how the Ramayana epic is embraced in different South-east Asian societies, I tell visitors that in the past, it was no issue for Muslim "dalangs" or puppeteers performing wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) to tell stories from Hindu epics.

These stories express universal values of brotherhood, fairness, filial piety and charity.

The IHC galleries show how Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam have been indigenised in Singapore and South-east Asia.

In fact, it is unsurprising to find devotees at the Buddhist Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple in Waterloo Street also praying at the neighbouring Hindu Sri Krishnan Temple.

Museum artefacts are not lifeless but have fascinating stories to tell.

Encouraging greater museum attendance will indeed open the eyes of many visitors to our diversity, "overcoming the darkness of ignorance and bigotry with learning and understanding" ("Fighting intolerance a challenge everywhere today, says Tharman"; Nov 11).

Greater understanding will then lead to greater tolerance and a more peaceful world.

Tang Siew Ngoh (Miss)