x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Museum 'brings past to life'

The Zayed National Museum will use the past to help visitors discover the UAE's future.

Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, says national museums have to be ‘something quite different’.
Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, says national museums have to be ‘something quite different’.

ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi's national museum will be as much about the future as the past, a panel of officials said yesterday.

The Zayed National Museum will be the cornerstone of the emerging Saadiyat Island cultural district, and will use the UAE's past to help map the future.

"The idea is to make history alive. We have to bring it into today," said Wafaa el Saddik, the former director of the Egyptian Museum, at a discussion under the title The National Museum: A Symbolic Identity? held at Manarat al Saadiyat yesterday.

"In the past, how the museum works was to collect and preserve and display. The people of the museum were not concerned at all with knowing who was coming."

The new museum, designed by the architect Norman Foster, will honour the life and achievements of Sheikh Zayed and celebrate the history of the UAE.

The museum will join branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre art galleries in the cultural district.

The British Museum has signed on as a consulting partner and has a hand in advising on everything from design and construction to education and curatorial programming of the Sheikh Zayed Museum.

Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, said yesterday that the Emirates national museum will be unlike any other.

"The extraordinary fact of Abu Dhabi, or of London or Berlin or Paris, is that it's the people of the world living in these cities, and so a national museum has to be something quite different," said Mr MacGregor.

Saadiyat Island's current exhibition, Splendours of Mesopotamia, is a collaboration between the British Museum and Tourism Development and Investment Company in the run-up to the opening of the Zayed National Museum in 2014.

The exhibition includes pieces from the British Museum's Middle East collection and is the first of three exhibitions to be co-organised by the British Museum.

The next two exhibitions, opening next year and in 2013, will focus on the Egyptian view of the afterlife and on understanding cultures of the world through objects.

jthomas@thenational.ae