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The Nahrein Network


Fostering the sustainable development of heritage in post-conflict iraq and its neighbours


Contemporary Approaches to Museum Design

By Zainab, on 22 May 2023

We talk to Shazad Jaseem Tofiq, Architect at the Sulaimani Directorate of Antiquities. Shazad held a Nahrein – BISI Visiting Scholarship at The British Museum. Shazad’s project is titled Contemporary Approaches to Museum Design and is under the supervision of Dr Paul Collins.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

My name is Shazad Jaseem Tofiq and I’m an architect at the Sulaimani Antiquities Directorate. I’ve been working there since December 2007. My work primarily involves the preservation of historic houses and gallery design development at the Sulaimani Museum.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in several preservation projects where I’ve utilized my skills and expertise to conserve historic buildings. It’s always a challenging task because each building has its unique set of problems. However, it’s also rewarding when we manage to restore a building to its former glory.

At the Sulaimani Museum, I’ve also been involved in designing galleries and exhibits. As an architect, I’m able to utilize my knowledge of spatial design to create visually appealing and functional spaces.

Shazad Tofiq and Dr Paul Collins at The British Museum

Tell us more about your project and the main benefits of the Visiting Scholarship?

My project’s main focus was to observe and analyze the spatial design and configuration of the collections and exhibits at different UK museums. I received a two-month Nahrein Network – BISI Scholarship at the British Museum, which provided me with an opportunity to learn from their well-developed museum exhibits and design. Through this scholarship, I gained valuable insights into the spatial design components, collection configuration, and architectural elements of exhibits. I had the opportunity to visit over 22 museums across the UK.

I also undertook several semi-structured interviews with related professionals to explore the design process approach and rationale of those exhibits as well as the museum. It was an enriching experience that has allowed me to bring back new ideas and knowledge to my work at the Sulaimani Antiquities Directorate.

What are your plans for your project once you’re back in Iraq?

After completing my scholarship at the British Museum, I am now planning to take my learnings and apply them to my work at the Sulaimani Antiquities Directory. I believe that the knowledge and insights I gained during my time in the UK can be useful in improving our museum exhibits and preservation projects.

I plan to share my learnings by writing a research paper that summarizes my findings and observations. This paper will detail my analysis of the spatial design components and configuration of the collection and architectural elements of the exhibit at the British Museum. It will also provide insight into the design process approach and rationale of those exhibits.

Moreover, I am also planning to organize two workshops for related museum professionals, including architects, archaeologists, interior designers, educators, and other relevant experts. These workshops will provide a platform for us to discuss and exchange ideas on how to apply my learnings to our respective fields. By doing so, we can collaborate and contribute to the improvement of museum exhibits and preservation projects in our region.

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