National Museums and the Public Imagination: A Longitudinal Study of the National Museum of Qatar – Year 1 Workshop

On 28 September 2017, the project first international workshop was held In Georgetown University in Qatar to discuss and reflect on the data collected by the project research team at the end of the first year of the research. The workshop was titled “National Museums and the Public Imagination: A Longitudinal Study of the National Museum of Qatar – Year 1 Workshop”.  In addition to members of the research team and the student research assistants, the workshop was also attended by academics and students from UCL Qatar and professionals from the National Museum of Qatar.

In the first session of the workshop, keynote speaker Professor Katarzyna Pieprzak, a Professor of Comparative Literature and French at Williams College (USA), presented a paper titled “What is Left to Love in a National Museum?”. The paper explored: what a national museum does in terms of identity construction, and more importantly for whom? What it means when a national museum remains silent towards its national public and yet speaks loudly to a foreign audience?

The second paper in the first session was present by Dr Jocelyn S. Mitchell, an Assistant Professor in the Liberal Arts Programme at Northwestern University in Qatar, jointly with Dr Scott Curtis, an Associate Professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University in Qatar. Their paper explored how the National Museum of Qatar seeks to promote a narrative that emphasizes the similarities of Qatari citizens rather than their differences, through problematizing the potential display of the Beduiner film, a documentary made in Qatar in the 1950s by Danish ethnographers.

The second afternoon session included presentations by the research team members on the various methods used to collect the data. The presentations covered: interviews in English by Professor Andrew Gardner (PI, University of Puget Sound), and interviews in Arabic presented by Student Researcher Maha Abdulrahman Ali Abdulaal in coordination with Dr Mariam Ibrahim Al Mulla and Dr Sherine El Menshawy (PIs, Qatar University). A third presentation on the telephone survey was presented by Dr Jocelyn S. Mitchell (PI, Northwestern University in Qatar), and finally a presentation on focus groups and a presentation on media content analysis were both presented by Dr Waleed Serhan (Project Research Associate).

At the workshop’s end, the Lead Principal Investigator Dr Karen Exell and the research team agreed to deliver a report to Qatar Museums and the National Museum of Qatar including practical and museum content recommendations based on the first year of research.