Scholarship awardee gains inspiring experience at UC Berkeley
22 Oct 2019
In the US on a one-year overseas study trip at UC Berkeley, Connor Christopher Auyeung Ka-hei (Left in the picture), a second-year History major, with a HK$300,000 sponsorship from the prestigious HSBC Overseas Scholarship 2019/20, expects the journey to give him a global outlook and cultural understanding.
Connor, who plans to be a museum curator, believes that “an exchange trip is not meant to be entertainment; it should be educational, informative and inspiring.” He talks to us recently about his life and study experience.
Why do you like history? Is there any period or area that you are particularly interested in?
I like understanding how people interact, form hierarchies and function.
I am attracted to trade history in Eurasia, and Chinese technological history as well as modern European history. Recently, I have been reading up on modern Chinese history.
How do museums impress you and make you want to be a curator? Which is your favourite?
Museums are publicly accessible storages of memory and knowledge. Think of listening to Cantonese Opera in Sha Tin or looking at Han-era tomb figurines in Tsim Sha Tsui — we exhibit, collect and preserve things, because that is how we build up a common identity, or at least a common memory.
I don’t think I shall ever forget how splendid the Sung porcelain ware in the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin is — it makes me proud to be part of a Chinese culture capable of such outstanding craftsmanship — or how Zhao Shao’ang’s Lingnan-style painting makes birds come to life in such ingenious ways.
My all-time most exciting visit to a museum, however, was reading about the history of trading at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. It just shows how academic research ties into public life, and how classroom knowledge should be incorporated into the public knowledge in museums and affiliated institutions.
In your opinion, how can modern technologies play a part in enriching visitors’ museum experiences?
Digital technology is undoubtedly a stimulating medium, which is why using it in a museological context must be carefully thought out.
When we are preparing an exhibition, is it meant for education? Or is it meant to entertain? Balancing the two, while far from impossible, requires wise use of digital media as well as other even more recent forms like holographic projection and interactive exhibits. A good example would be deploying digital media to reconstruct a whole city, such as Tang Chang’an, which itself is supplemented by material exhibits of Tang infrastructure and urban life.
A game that is supposed to educate but only entertains in an exhibition does not drive the message home; in fact it may even blur the whole point.
All in all, digital media is so powerful and stimulating that it should not be used for its own sake, but to enhance the quality of the exhibition, bridging the gaps between other material or text presentations.
How are you finding UC Berkeley? Any similarities or differences with life at Lingnan?
So far I’m doing fine, meeting new people and attending classes; in between, I cook, delve into new academic research and occasionally write essays and even fiction when inspiration comes.
As for the difference, I’d definitely point to the academic culture. Everything in class is a lot more competitive: in both interaction and after-class revision, you can feel students’ determination to do their best. The pressure, while not always a welcome sensation, keeps me well on my toes, and I get on with it.
Without the sponsorship, it is impossible for me to experience all these. I am also grateful for the support and guidance from Lingnan throughout my study.