Call for papers: Museum in Arabia Conference (Doha, 13-16 June 2014)

Museum in Arabia

13-16 June 2014, Doha, Qatar

Sarina Wakefield, Open University, UK
Karen Exell, UCL Qatar, Doha

The inaugural Museums in Arabia conference took place in July 2012 at the British Museum, London. This first conference, entitled The Role of Museums in Arabia, was held as a special session alongside the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The session explored the role of the museum as an institution for the preservation and interpretation of heritage in a region whose past is based upon traditional practices and oral histories, and in which the intangible past has taken precedence over the preservation of the material past. Due to the success of the first conference a second edition will be held in Doha in co-operation with UCL Qatar, The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha and the support of the Qatar National Research Fund.

Although museums have been present in the region since the 1950s, the recent investment in high-profile museums in a number of the states of the Arabian Peninsula is establishing the museum as a central form of heritage preservation, arguably overshadowing local forms of heritage performance and preservation. In addition, the mega-museum projects in, for example, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are drawing the attention of the international media to the region, and such media interpretations of these developments have come to dominate the discourse. Critical analysis of the role of museums in the Arabian Peninsula is at an early stage. This conference explores a number of themes addressing questions such as: What challenges do museums in the region face in their development? What is the nature of the heritage collected, curated and displayed in the museums? How are the museum model and the implementation of international museological expertise impacting on local forms of heritage representation? What kind of audience are the museums speaking to, and how do local communities engage with the museums? What is the nature of community vis-à-vis the museum in the region?
This conference will be of interest to academics and students working in the field of museums and cultural heritage in the region and globally, museum and cultural heritage practitioners, anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, and, more broadly, those with an interest in the socio-cultural, economic and political landscape of the region.

Abstract submission

We welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words on the following topics. Please include your name, affiliation and contact details at the end of the abstract:

  1. Museums and Cultural Policy: Across the Arabian Peninsula over the last 40 years cultural policies have developed that utilise museums and heritage as tools in state-definition and national identity. We are particularly keen to explore current and future policies of cultural development, and to investigate the differing approaches taken to museums, heritage and cultural developments at state level in the Arabian Peninsula.
  2. Museums and the Public: Although museums have been in existence since the 1950s, public awareness of the nature of museums amongst local populations in the Arabian Peninsula is still relatively low. The recent rapid development of high-profile museum projects has impacted on awareness but less so on attendance. This theme encompasses three areas of investigation: the strategies that museums are using to attract local audiences; the perceptions amongst local populations of their museums; and whether museums as local heritage institutions are sustainable, given their relatively unfamiliar form.
  3. Museums and Globalisation: Many of the museums constructed in the Arabian Peninsula over the last decade, and those still in development, are part of an agenda of globalisation – these museums are regarded as indicators of modernity transmitting a message of global and transnational identity, as they attract local and foreign audiences and expertise alike. This theme explores the role of museums in the agenda of globalisation, drawing on iterations of pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism, as well as the arrival of ‘franchise’ museums to the region. In addition, this theme is open to the role of the museums and its relationship to the concept of World Heritage.
  4. Museums and Education: Museums as educational institutions are well-developed in Europe and the United States, and while the educational role of museums is recognised in the Arabian Peninsula, the relatively recent arrival of the institution of the museum in the region and the nature of the regional school curriculums, present specific challenges to museums to successfully realise their educational role. This theme asks how museums can work effectively with education in the region, and explores some of the regional challenges that currently exist. In addition, new university programmes are being developed to train current and future museum staff. This theme investigates the challenges such programmes face, and asks how, and if, such programmes might develop successfully in the future.
  5. Beyond the Museum: Overshadowed by the state-level museum projects, many kinds of local museums and collections exist in the region, from preserved family houses to majliscollections and heirloom collections of pearling artefacts and craft tools. These collections are curated according to individual concerns, values and interests, illuminating indigenous concepts of heritage and identity. In addition, intangible practices continue to evolve alongside rapid social change, embodying forms of heritage impossible to represent in the traditional museum space. This session investigates all aspects of heritage practices beyond the new museum paradigm.

Abstracts addressing other themes relevant to this conference will also be considered.

Deadline for abstract submission: January 31st 2014
Please submit abstracts to:

For any queries regarding abstract submissions please contact Sarina Wakefield

Limited funding is available to support travel and accommodation. Please contact Karen Exell to discuss funding applications:


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