x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Guggenheim and Louvre no threat to local museum efforts

Curators say international museums will draw more visitors and provide more education opportunities.

DUBAI // Museum curators say the opening of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums in the capital will not detract from their efforts to preserve Emirati culture.

Representatives from museums in all seven emirates said yesterday the new museums would not overshadow them, but rather complement their existing establishments.

"The UAE is a cosmopolitan place, so the Guggenheim and Louvre museums were needed to complement the museums already present, and they will benefit in the process," said Abdullah Rafia, the assistant director general of Dubai Municipality. "It will also raise the profile of Abu Dhabi, the UAE in general will benefit from increased tourism, and the economy will grow stronger - as will political ties."

Mr Rafia was speaking at an event organised by Dubai Municipality at the Falcon Centre in Nad al Sheba to commemorate International Museum Day. Initiated in 1977 by the International Council of Museums, the day is celebrated annually around the world in more than 30,000 museums.

Curators and officials met at yesterday's event to discuss current and future projects, as well as the challenges for museums - such as the need for more co-operation, training of staff and education programmes in schools.

Salama al Shamsi, public relations and protocol officer for the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) - which is responsible for developing the Louvre and Guggenheim projects - addressed questions about the justification for bringing international museums to the UAE.

She said it was not unusual for museums around the world to present more than just local history. "Not all museums have to be historical. If you go to the Louvre in Paris you will find sections dedicated to Arabic culture and art - they do not simply focus on what is deemed French.

"The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will also have artwork by Emiratis, and we have local artists who have showcased work in museums in New York, for example."

Rashad Mohammed Bukhash, director of Architectural Heritage at Dubai Municipality, said museums could be a powerful tool and the UAE was "moving along the right track".

"We have more than 45 museums and even more private collections. People travel all around the world to see one piece of work like the Mona Lisa. Look at The British Museum: it is dedicated to world history, The new museums in Abu Dhabi will allow people to learn about local and international culture."

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open next year, and the Guggenheim in 2013. TDIC is also working on the Zayed National Museum project, in honour of the late Sheikh Zayed, founder of the nation, which is set to open in 2014.

All three museums have created employment opportunities for Emiratis who are passionate about the field. Mr Bukhash said Emiratis needed to be included in such initiatives from the outset.

Moving forward, co-operation with schools and colleges was of the utmost importance, said Bilal al Budoor, assistant undersecretary for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development.

"We came into this field relatively late but since the opening of the first museum - the Al Ain National Museum - and over the past few years specifically, there has been noticeable development and enthusiasm and education."

There was no official body to oversee dialogue between museums in different emirates, but this was set to change, Mr Rafia said.

"At the moment, the co-operation between experts is unofficial, but the new UAE Council on Heritage and Culture is in the process of being introduced."

The new council aims to ensure smoother co-ordination between all emirates and the regular sharing of information.

melshoush@thenational.ae