Jun 05

Towards women’s museums in the Middle East

Project objectives

a) To establish a network between museums / cultural institutions, universities and relevant individual actors in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Denmark (Europe), under which seminars and workshops may be organized.b)  The network is to disseminate knowledge and experience
c)  To create a museological based structure for the development of women’s museums and exhibitions in the Middle East to disseminate and communicate women and gender related issues to a wider public based on research and training in the field of museology, material culture, and gender.

Project  Summary

This project shall establish the academic background for the promotion of heritage knowledge and forms of outreach with a focus on gender in the Middle East, with the ultimate purpose of creating exhibitions focusing on women and women’s museums.

Through creating a strong network of individual researchers, research institutions, and museums, the project aims at developing knowledge, which shall be available to practitioners in the museum sector and to institutions working within the field of heritage, gender studies and visual anthropology.
Dissemination of the knowledge will take place through workshops, publications, a summer school including young people from the region and Denmark, who have an interest in gender and the preservation of contemporary heritage, and a traveling exhibition to be presented in the participating countries. The exhibition shall raise issues on women’s position in history and society, and help secure a focus on these in public debates and policy-making.

Project Description

During the last decades, a number of European countries have witnessed the creation of “women’s museums” (Denmark, Germany, Austria etc.), which combine research into gender issues and the academic development of museology -­‐ including topics such as heritage preservation and experimental methods of exhibiting. Similar developments have been witnessed in the Middle East (“Women and Memory Forum”, 1995 and “The Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies”, AUC, both Cairo; “Sawt al’ Niswa”, and lately “The Knowledge Workshop”, both Lebanon) -­‐ although no actual “women’s museums” have been established, yet. Besides the focus on the above-­‐mentioned topics, this development has had as its background a wish to document and disseminate knowledge about women’s worlds, histories, and fore-­‐fronting the otherwise often overseen importance of women and their every day in the economy, politics, society, and history.
The present project intends both to strengthen the academic development of the field and secure the dissemination of knowledge to a larger group of practitioners, particularly young people with an interest in entering into the field of research and museums, with the ultimate goal of developing women’s museums in the MENA-­‐region, which may be centers for fore-­‐fronting women’s importance in   society and strengthen the gender awareness in society and the political discourse.
This will be done through establishing a network consisting of institutions and individual academics, scholars, and curators working in the field of cultural heritage, material culture, memory and history, and gender research, which through workshops and a seminar shall develop the theoretical and practical frameworks and methodologies for establishing exhibitions and “women’s museums” in the Arab Middle East.


The theoretical foundation to be developed through the workshops and the seminar shall focus on new insights from within museology and new reflections on exhibiting, which secures not only the application of new technologies, but emphasizes the need to produce emerging gendered histories that shall engage visitors in an active dialogue with the exhibits and the reflections of the curators. The goal is to render the exhibit site or the museum another space for further productions of histories and reflections thereabout and consequently develop novel ways to engage the visitors to the exhibitions or museums. Hence the ultimate goal being to involve larger groups of – primarily – women in the work to secure and highlight the lives, material culture, and heritage of women.
Furthermore, the intention is to rethink the very meaning, form, and making of a museum and exhibitions along with the possibility of discussing different configurations of museums and exhibitions. Besides intending to develop new theoretical insights these workshops shall also focus on the specific crafts of heritage salvation, the acquisition of material and immaterial culture, and innovative exhibition conceptualizations and practices. This shall include sessions on topics such as oral history, the use of official documents as documentation of everyday life, the ability of material culture to express knowledge of practices, not least gender-specific practices, trade as expression of specific social and gender relations, gender specific handicrafts, and specific practices related to reproductive life -­‐ to mention a few.
At the same time knowledge of other parts of the craft of museology shall be included, with a   focus on practical and ethical issues pertaining to the acquisition of material and immaterial culture, the necessity of registration and the use of modern databases to secure this and cross-­‐references to both in-­‐ and external collections of materials and documents, this latter shall be central to the regional focus of the network. Other issues such as conservation practices, the politics of preservation and representation, storage – securing the access of the public to collections stored -­‐ shall also be part of this more practical scope of the work and purpose of the network. These network activities will take place in both Egypt, Jordan and Denmark and shall in the form secure an exchange of knowledge and experiences between both practitioners and the more theoretically oriented members of the network and thereby secure a continuous dialogue between the participants.
As the final activity of the network is to create an exhibition, based on the insights and skills acquired through the seminar and the workshops, which shall be presented in the countries engaged in the network, the project shall continuously have a focus on securing that a wider public shall be reached and thereby secure that the central topic of fore-fronting gender issues shall be communicated in ways where the topic shall have an impact on general societal debates and thereby be an input to a broader political discourse working to secure a strengthened focus on gender issues. The exhibition and the activities of the network have the ultimate goal of preparing the ground for the creating of women’s museums in the Arab world.


Initiation Seminar: to be held at the Women’s Museum in Denmark 29th of May 3rd of June Establishing the network. The seminar will be held by means of support from the Center for Culture and Development (CKU) and DEDI and is therefore not included in the proposed project budget. It is part of the activities initiated by these institutions to support projects covering museums and heritage. The overall content of the seminar has been developed in a close collaboration between the two institutions and the Women’s Museum in Aarhus. The content is in line with the objectives and strategies of the two institutions and is, therefore, following the overall objectives of the DAPP and the FACE program. The seminar is mentioned here as it is included in the project and will be an important factor in the formation of the network, and in the specification of its content. The seminar shall also prepare for the content of the arranged summer school/dialogue forum, to take place in August 2016. The seminar will focus on discussions to strengthen the establishment of gender‐related research in a museological context.
Summer School: The 2016 Summer school will be organized around the general theme of ‘What is the role of museums in cultural development?’ and more specifically ‘How to curate gender-related exhibition’ The summer school will take place in Denmark and will target students of anthropology, heritage studies, and young practitioners from the field. It will also expand its targeted participants to include participants from Jordan and Lebanon, in addition, to Egyptian and Danish participants. The addition of Lebanese and Jordanian students is important in the context of this specific summer school because the regional context is much needed when discussing heritage and gender issues and the possibilities of engaging the public through the use of the heritage of the region. For the summer school/dialogue forum, DEDI opens a call for participation, rates and selects candidates, and then invites 24 participants equally divided between Egyptians, Danes, Jordanians and Lebanese to attend the forum. Selection criteria are -­‐ besides what has been mentioned above -­‐ age, diversity of backgrounds, interest in this year’s theme and English proficiency. As the summer school/dialogue forum shall be organized on the basis of the long tradition of dialog forums held by DEDI, a central aspect -­‐ besides the contend -­‐ shall be dialogic between the participating youth.


The focus of the three workshops will be the more practical training, developing the tool-­‐ kit/publication and work directed towards establishing the exhibition. Each workshop will be of a duration of 5 days and will take place in Egypt (2) and Jordan (1) with input from the participants in the core network and specialist from various fields from the region and Denmark.

1st Workshop. September 2016 (Cairo, Egypt): Narratives and exhibitions. Oral history and objects.

2nd Workshop October 2016 (Amman, Jordan): Collecting, collections, and preservation. Publication: December 2016—Network meeting Finalizing parts of “toolkit “publication

3rd Workshop. January 2017(Cairo, Egypt): Exhibition design, visual media, and outreach Planning the Traveling exhibition

Exhibition.  January – 2017: Organizing and finalizing the exhibition, securing its presentation at central venues in the participating countries. This shall be carried out with additional financial support by CKU and DEDI, which has at the present allocated funds for the activity. The presentation of the exhibition shall continue beyond the project period (June 2017), and shall be overseen/monitored by DEDI.