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  • Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards.

    By Edmund Connolly, on 7 August 2013

    Reflecting on the past year for the Cultural Heritage Fellowship I am writing another post cataloguing our two final fellows, Sonia Slim (Tunisia) and Ramdane Kamal (Algeria)[1].

    Sonia is a Chief Architect at the National Institute of Heritage, with an extensive background of work and study in architecture and conservation, and archaeological site management which offered her a very unique and refreshing approach to the concept of community engagement in heritage. Her previous projects included monitoring the site of Dar Rashid and she oversaw the studies for the conversion of the opulent Ksar Said palace to the Museum of Tunisia’s Contemporary History Museum. Sonia has a very firm belief that architects should be of service to society and can help develop spaces to be of more use and appropriated by the public. Coming with such a firm belief in community engagement and services Sonia easily transitioned from the training weeks in the UK to her own project in Tunisia.

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    Moving Forward: Cultural Heritage Fellowship 2012/13

    By Edmund Connolly, on 9 April 2013

    It is hard to believe we will be playing proud host to our group of 9 Fellows in just a few months’ time. Time has flown and our Fellows have been busy developing their Community Engagement projects using the case studies and skills that were showcased during the weeks spent in the UK at UCL and a group of host museums. Following on from our last post I will now profile out Egyptian Fellows: Sayed Ahmed and Mohamed M. Mokhtar, who both work at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Cairo.

    Sayed Ahmed CHF 2012/13

    Sayed Ahmed CHF 2012/13

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    The Fellowship Continues

    By Edmund Connolly, on 15 January 2013

    A new year has begun and our Fellows are now developing their projects back in their respective institutions. The Cultural Heritage Fellowship, which was established in 2012, aimed at promoting and analysing means of community engagement in cultural institutions in the MENA region. With Fellows from such a range of countries and institutions the projects are developing in unique and original ways. Following from our post last year, I will briefly profile our Jordanian Fellows, Nada Sheikh-Yasin and Mohammad Shaqdih.

     

    M Shaqdih

    Mohammad Shaqdih started as the Education Officer at Darat al Funun, a pioneering institution for Jordanian and Arab world arts and artists, and now is the Assistant Director for the Outreach Program. Founded in 1993, Darat al Funun has a holistic melange of facilities, including library, gardens and performance spaces, as well as the exhibition galleries and workshops. The current exhibition, “The power of the word”, uses pieces from the private collections from more than 20 artists from a mix of Arab Countries (such as Muna Hattoum, Rashid Quraishi, Lila Shawwa, Adel Abdin etc.). By choosing artworks that include  words and writings, this lively collection seeks to: “provide the public with a bird’s eye view of works of art created by Arab artists and gives the opportunity to witness, as closely as possible, the development of the Arab Art Movement”. With a background in graphic design and a degree in Applied Arts, Mohammad proved a very insightful Fellow, with experience of working on both side of the art industry, as artist and, now, Director. (more…)

    Exchanging Knowledge through the Cultural Heritage Fellowship programme

    By Edmund Connolly, on 15 October 2012

    guest blogger: Tonya Nelson (Petrie Museum Manager)

    This year UCL Museums and Public Engagement entered into an exciting partnership with the British Council to develop and deliver a Fellowship programme for museum professionals from the Middle East and North Africa on the topic of community engagement.  While in the UK museums are increasingly creating platforms for their communities to advise and consult on the use of collections, create exhibitions and host their own programmes in museum spaces, little of this type of participation occurs in museums in the Middle East or North Africa.  Eight Fellows coming from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Algeria, Palestine, and Lebanon were selected for the programme and attended an intensive 2 week training programme in the UK.  However, the idea behind the Fellowship programme is not simply to teach the Fellows about community engagement practices in the UK.  The Fellowship also seeks to share knowledge and ideas.  The hope is that the UK museums supporting the Fellowship will learn about the practices of museums in other countries, build relationships with museum practitioners and institutions abroad and develop a better understanding of how they might serve Middle East/North African communities living in their communities.  To that end, I will write a series of blogs this year profiling the Fellows and the innovative work that they are doing in their home institutions.  In this blog, I will profile the work of Fellows Carla Mardini from Lebanon and Tamara Musha’sha’ from Palestine.

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    The emergence of Empathy

    By Edmund Connolly, on 21 August 2012

    “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

    Bonhoeffer

     

    Although I may be hedging my bets by opening my first ever blog post with a quotation, I consider it suitably apt for the topic of creating empathy within the museum space. I recently met Roman Krznaric (founder of the School of Life) who has created the Museum of Empathy model, a space which, rather than just educating its visitors, encourages them to empathise with the denoted culture. This may be a case of understanding the labour and wage paid to go into the cup of coffee you drink, to facing the cruelties of enduring a hurricane.

    I must admit, at first I was not entirely sold on the idea, I failed to see why a museum needed to impose empathy on its visitors. Empathy is a very intimate, personal reaction, for a third party to dictate to me that I should be feeling empathy at a certain point in time jars painfully with all my British stiff upperlip-ness. For me, museums are places of education, beauty and self discovery, but it is precisely for these reasons that empathy is rendered so important a facet of the museum culture. Museums have become the medium of choice to discuss contemporary, community and even future issues that relate directly to the viewing public. They are no longer silent halls where times new roman boards dictate the meaning, dating or interpretation of objects; Museums are alive, changing and inspiring thought, but can they help one to empathise with the civilizations they define? (more…)