The Palestinian Museum
The Palestinian Museum, in Birzeit, a city in the north of Jerusalem is in news for a unique reason. The museum was inaugurated yesterday on the 18th of May, 2016 but did so without a collection! Mahmoud Hawari, a research associate at the Khalili Center in the University of Oxford who is also a visiting academician at the British Museum, London came on board as the director of the museum a mere two weeks ago.
The focus of this museum that has 3,500 sq. m. of exhibition and educational area is the history and culture of Palestine from 1750 to the current day. Heneghan Peng, a Dublin based architectural establishment designed this $30 million marvel that stands on this expanse of 40,000 sq. m. generously offered by the adjacent Birzeit University on a long term lease.
The acting director Omar Al-Qattan was asked whether the museum will have anything to show on the opening day, and he replied with a No, while highlighting the beauty of the building itself and the gardens. Al-Qattan also claimed that a permanent collection will be gradually built in the museum. He mentioned later that a former diplomat has given a personal collection of 504 rare posters about Palestine from the 1970s on.
It has been quite a tough road to bring to reality this Palestinian Museum. Stepping down of Jack Persekian, an independent curator, from the post of the director in 2012 due to certain differences in administrative and planning issues was one of the major blows to it. This is essentially the instrumental reason why the inaugural show – Never Part has been postponed for this long. The showcase of personal belongings of the people of Palestine is backed by more than three years of research.
The Palestinian Museum here is termed as the mother ship by Al-Qattan with a spattering of satellite branches in venues that have a strong Palestinian presence culturally. The conception and planning of the museum includes multiple shows in satellite outposts.
Family Album Project from the Palestinian Museum, is a unique collection where the museum is collating photographs from the cherished photo albums donated by the families of Palestine. A whopping 11,000 photographs have been converted to a digital format to create a rich audio visual archive for the museum. This archive is a hope for the displaced Palestinians to reconnect with their relatives back home.
Al-Qattan went on to talk about the talks that are underway with other international institutions for future alliances and is hopeful towards establishing a presence in Jerusalem soon.
The Israeli art world including the minister for culture and sports, journalists and curators, however refrained from commenting on probable collaborations or associations.
Coming from non-profit organization by the name of the Welfare Association (Taawon) from Switzerland that is committed to extend assistance for the humanitarian and all round development of Palestinians, this is a flagship project. Funds from individuals and institutions, along with the Al-Qattan family, the Bank of Palestine and Projacs & Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) two construction companies from the Middle East have come up to more than $25m.
Even though there have been challenges that have marked the path of progress for the Palestinian Museum, there are some that hold an optimistic view that it would make an effort to preserve the personal side of the region’s tempestuous past. It is projected to become a vital platform for artists and curators in Palestine and a key establishment in Palestine’s cultural landscape.