GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
One Nation, One Myth and Two Museums: Heritage, Architecture and Culture as Tools for Assembling Identity in Qatar.
Paper Proposal Text :
Just a few years ago, Doha, the Qatari capital, was referred to as a “sleepy town”. The city was perceived as one of the most dull cities in the world. In 2008, the Lonely Planet guidebooks rated the city as the most boring city on earth (Lonely Planet, 2008). The new city, almost a village few decades ago, is so determined to establish itself as a new destination and admired global player. Consequently, as a result of its position in the global energy market, the country is going through massive expansion and has the resources to support this growth. Considering Qatar’s current thrive into a post-oil paradigm where knowledge economy might be the generative force for development, an examination of how the State’s new museums contribute to Qatar’s new vision becomes so relevant. The paper analyzes the process of constructing a new urban brand; Dohaization, and the role of new museums in substantiating such brand and new identity. A quest for identity, in the contemporary moment, implies twofold pursuits. First, it would speak to the locality and relate to the community heritage and roots. Second, it should respect the global aspirations and each city’s compelling desire to accommodate a place on the global stage and to brand itself as a global city attracting tourists, workers and global citizens. The paper conducts a discussion on the role of museum, the meaning of heritage and the identity narrative. Then, I will exploit the findings of this discussion in the assessment and critical review of the two selected museums.

Today, most of the museums have shifted their focus and policies in order to bridge the gap between the museums and local communities. This essay will analyze how and why community participation in museums is a significant factor in bridging the gap and improving relationship between the two institutions. The social inclusion leads to trust, understanding, a sense of identity, and creating a museum that is more relevant to the community. This paper also give some suggestions on how to build bridges between museums and communities, to provide an opportunity for the people living in such communities, like Gulf ones, to find out about their own heritage and to help them realize that it is through their active participation in museum activities that heritage is kept alive.

This paper critically narrates the case of two iconic museums in the contemporary urbanity of Doha; The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and The Qatar National Museum (QNM). By analyzing the process of constructing a new urban identity for Qatar, the paper also examines the role of museums in approaching a new paradigm by moving from consuming old heritage to constructing a new tradition and manufacturing an alternative contemporary heritage. The paper addresses crucial questions such as: What is the relation between Building museums and pursuing a future development vision? Can Museums’ architecture and urbanism facilitate a different level of community engagement? Can the architecture and urbanism of museums demystify the notion of deserted museums in the Gulf?