“A safe place for unsafe ideas” is the slogan for the Palestinian Museum which will be dedicated to the country and its peoples’ history, culture and society.
May 15, 2016 has been confirmed as the opening date for the museum, sited in Birzeit and designed by architect firm Heneghan Pang.
Its director, Jack Persekian, has issued an invitation to Palestinians to join in producing new narratives of the country’s people, encompassing their history of dispersion, resistance and hope.
The opening date coincides with the 68th anniversary of the Nakba – the Palestinian word meaning “Day of the Catastrophe” that led to the displacement of over 60% of the Palestinian population, following a declaration of independence by the state of Israel.
According to Persekian, “The decision to open the Museum on 15 May is designed to underline the enduring importance of the Nakba to the Museum’s work”.
It is a flagship project of the Welfare Association, an independent non-profit organisation committed to providing development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians.
The project was first conceived in 1998 as an institution that would commemorate the Nakba and its pivotal role in re-charting the course of modern Palestinian history.
Persekian said: “Although this original concept has since been considerably modified the Nakba still has a central role to play in the Museum’s work.
“More than half of the Palestinian population currently resides in the diaspora [a scattered population which originates from a particular geographic area], and what makes the Palestinian Museum different from any other institution of its kind is that it is located in the Palestinian territories, where many will be unable to reach it.
“It is for this reason that its digital presence and international partnerships are so important. These networks and branches are the backbone of the Museum, and are just as important as its hub in Birzeit.
“The museum refuses to be constricted by geographical and political borders; rather, it is to be an institution capable of traversing such boundaries, and overcoming the obstacles to free movement faced by so many. To this end, it is working to establish a whole network of partnerships around it, as well as using its digital platforms and networks to connect with its publics wherever they are in the world.”
The museum team is currently working out of temporary offices in Ramallah to prepare a full programme of exhibitions and projects, both within Palestine and in several other parts of the world, which will coincide with the opening.
Also underway is the establishment of a digital archive and a series of educational programmes. These projects, all of which seek in different ways to challenge the prevailing Palestinian historical narratives, will be implemented via partnerships across major cities including Dubai, Jerusalem, Gaza, Amman, Beirut, London, San Diego, Santiago, and Cape Town.