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The National Museum of Qatar and the Public Imagination research project is led by Dr Karen Exell and a team of international and local researchers, and is funded by the Qatar National Research Fund from August 2016 to July 2019. The project aims to develop an understanding of the social and cultural perception and impact of the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) across key demographic groups in Qatar, both Qatari nationals and expatriates.

While on one level the research examines how NMoQ may contribute to and influence the promotion of national values, cultural heritage and identity in Qatar, it also addresses shortcomings in the literature on the Arab Gulf region in terms of nation-building. Methodologically, it is one of few studies to conduct audience research in museum studies in the region and the first of its kind on such a wide scale. It is also the first to develop and test culturally-calibrated and appropriate social science approaches that will take into account cultural norms around status, gender and socio-economic background, as well as nationality and language

The research is divided into three main phases – pre-opening stage of NMoQ and opening stage/immediate post-opening. The pre-opening research provides baseline indications of public perceptions of national heritage, values, and identity prior to the influence of the NMoQ. Such findings are crucial to understand the current views of Qatar’s diverse communities, which will in turn provide an essential benchmark with which to establish the impacts of the NMoQ. The opening/post-opening research will analyze the impact of the NMoQ in influencing, shaping, reshaping, contesting, or changing these perceptions and values. These stages combined allow for investigating changes in public perceptions that occurred as a result of the museum opening and consequently how the museum is situated within the public imagination of the diverse communities of Qatar.    

The project builds on the training of local researchers, both Qatari and expatriate, in research skills that will enable such research to be carried out with local human capital in the future thereby enhancing the development of a knowledge-based economy in Qatar.