x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Involving Emiratis is the key to museum's success

Does the positive response to Treasures mean that historical exhibitions offer a greater opportunity for building audiences than, say, contemporary art?

Does the positive response to Treasures mean that historical exhibitions offer a greater opportunity for building audiences than, say, contemporary art?

"It's a positive sign of what will happen in the future in the Cultural District on Saadiyat Island," says Salama Al Shamsi, project manager for the forthcoming Zayed National Museum.

"I think that wherever you go in the world, a historical museum or an exhibition related to the country itself has something emotional about it," says Ms Al Shamsi. "We are trying our best to involve Emiratis in the content of the Zayed National Museum. We want them to be as much part of the content and narrative of the museum as loyal audience."

Research teams are currently collecting oral histories and visiting individuals and clubs around the UAE. "It's about audience engagement and for them to be part of it - we want people saying, 'Here's a photograph of my great grandfather,' when they walk through the museum." This process, she believes, will create a greater museum-going culture as the rest of Saadiyat Island's museums open.

Muna Mukhashab, curator of the newly reopened and refurbished Sharjah Heritage Museum, says that historical exhibits related to the country attract a wide age-range of Emirati visitors. "Family groups often visit together, with the older generation sharing their memories about the past with the younger members of the family while engaging with objects on display.

"The museum also emphasises the fact that local heritage continues to operate in the lives and consciousness of the present."