LCANE+VAM Spring Lecture Series 2022

Museums and Ancient western Asia: Perspectives from the Middle East

Organised jointly by

Vorderasiatisches Museum SMB PK & London Centre for the Ancient Near East (LCANE)

Current scholarship on curating “Ancient Near Eastern” archaeological collections has highlighted the viewpoints and practices of institutions and museums in Europe and North America. Museum professionals from the Middle East and/or those working in the Middle East, however, have been mostly absent from these discussions. As a result, the perspectives of museum professionals whose practices can often be configured differently within the confines of national borders and politics, or even disrupted due to political instability, war and conflict, and displacement, are obscured. Perhaps colleagues from/working in the Middle East “may not be empowered by their education, training, or position to write analytically about their own institutions” (Emberling and Pettit 2019: 10) in the same way as fits the European/North American canon, but this does not condone their exclusion from ongoing discourse. If anything, museum professionals in Europe and North America, who are able to exercise greater academic agency and who do have the benefit of resources and opportunities,  are in a unique position of responsibility to work towards new, practicable, and meaningful ways of including and engaging with colleagues in/from the Middle East. This is not, however, simply a matter of using one’s relative privilege to benefit others but should be viewed as a two-way flow of experience and skills. There is a great deal that professionals in Europe and North America can learn from their colleagues who have had to innovate solutions, build resilience and communities, and adapt their professional practices under challenging conditions. Museums in countries of the Middle East have their own histories and practices, which can make an equally significant contribution to the discipline with new questions, solutions, and directions. Setting the Middle East aside because things (are perceived to) work differently results in treating it simply as a geographic source for collections and not a legitimate space for the production and exchange of knowledge. 

 This seminar series aims to create a platform for discussions on curating ancient western Asian collections from the perspective of museum professionals from/working in the Middle East. Mindful of the idiosyncrasies of museum practices and political circumstances of countries in the Middle East, and in a conscious effort towards a new paradigm of discussion, we do not set or dictate questions and specific themes. What a “curator” does for example, can vary greatly across contexts, and we wish to provide greater visibility to this variability. Therefore, we invite museum professionals, archaeologists, cultural heritage professionals, and others who work with archaeological museum collections to present their work on ancient western Asian collections to speak about their professional practices around museum work which can include but is not limited to curation, interpretation, conservation, research, outreach, and education. 

All lectures start at 18.15 UK-time.

Monday, 17th January Dr Pınar Durgun (Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin), Dr Filiz Tütüncü Çağlar (Forum Transregionale Studien / Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin), Salma Jreige (Multaka), and Sarah Fortmann-Hijazi (Multaka): “Multilingual Engagement: Views from the Berlin State Museums.”

Monday, 31st January Wassim Alrez (DAI, Berlin): “Protecting (through Digitizing) Cultural Heritage from Abroad”

Monday, 7th February Dr. Rozhen Kamal Mohammed-Amin, Digital Cultural Heritage Research Center (DCH) & Sulaimani Polytechnic University (SPU) “Moving Beyond a Storehouse of Artifacts: Curation in Slemani Museum (Iraq’s 2nd Largest Archeology Museum).”

Monday, February 21st Anahita Poodat (Persian Gulf Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology of Bandar Abbas) “Museum and Society: Mutual rights, mutual rolls-Some experiences in directing museums with people from Persian Gulf Museum of Bandar Abbas, Iran”

Monday, February 28th Dr Nadine Panayot (American Univesity of Beirut Archaeological Museum) “The AUB Archaeological Museum, a Survival story”

Monday, March 7th Dr Hiba Qassar (International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies) “Whose heritage is this? A reflection on the social role of the archaeological patrimony in Syria”

Monday, 14th March Dr Gül Pulhan (The British Institute at Ankara) “Collection and Display: Some Aspects of Contemporary Museological Practice in Turkey”

Please register to attend the Zoom meeting using this link.