Opening of the First (but empty) Palestinian Museum in the occupied territory

On Wednesday 18 of May, the first Palestinian museum opened in the occupied West Bank but it does not have a collection yet

May 30th, 2016

On Wednesday 18 of May, the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas inaugurated the Palestinian museum in Bir Zeit. But the museum is so far only an empty shell after disagreement between the museum’s board and its director, which led the director to resign. Nevertheless, it is already an achievement for the Palestinians to have their first own museum.

The museum has the ambition to celebrate and redefine Palestinian art, history and culture. The first exhibition, entitled “Never Part”, will highlight artifacts of Palestinians refugees, featuring artistic interpretations of things and memories that Palestinians have kept after they had to flee their home, such as door keys or photographs.

But the museum, that should opened to public in the beginning of June, is still empty. This is the result of conflict between the museum’s board and the curator. For Omar al-Qattan, the museum’s chairman, it was worth it to open the museum even if it is empty because “the Palestinians are so in need of positive energy […]. Symbolically it’s critical”. The building of the museum is a piece of art in itself. Designed by an Irish firm, the building, which cost $24 million, financed at 95% by Palestinians, is “stunning”.

However Mr. Qattan recognizes that it is the next phase, which will include exhibitions hopefully starting October, that is ‘more exciting”. He explains that the future exhibition will probably explore the cultural meaning of martyrdom, the debate over which people inhabited the area first as well as the more recent departures of religious and ethnic minorities.

The Palestinian museum will also have a satellite in Beirut, Lebanon. Having some exhibitions out of the West Bank will allow more people to get to know better the Palestinian culture, considering that it can be difficult for people to travel through Israel. The first exhibition hold in Beirut will be called “At the Seams: a Political History of Palestinian Embroidery”.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Gaspard Fontaine, CD News