Ataya speaks about museums future in the High-Level UNESCO Forum

September 24, 2021 / 5:34 PM
Sharjah 24: Manal Ataya, Director-General of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) highlights her views on the future of museums as part of the 2nd High-Level Forum organised by UNESCO, during the ‘Facing Post-Pandemic Challenges through innovation and inclusiveness forum’, which was held remotely from Paris and consisted of five sessions.
Sessions included museums development and challenges of the pandemic, social inclusion and equality in the pandemic context, museums in the digital era, diversity of museums and museums in crisis and conflicts.

During her participation as a panelist at the ‘Museums in the digital era’ session that was moderated by Dr Suse Anderson, Assistant Professor, Museum Studies at The George Washington University, USA, Ataya shared her thoughts on what museums had to face during the health crisis. 

Fellow panelists included Mikhail Piotrovskiy, General Director of State Hermitage Museum in Russia, Antonio Saborit, The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi and Shengliang Zhao, Director of Dunhuang Research Academy in China. 

Ataya said museums had to initially close down and rethink how to reach their audiences and quickly create useful content to ensure they remained accessible and a source of connection to their local and global audiences.

Several cultural venues from across the world took their collections to the virtual world to reach a wider audience and achieve increased access.

Ataya stated that collections became no longer restricted to their physical space, which allowed more people who otherwise may have never been able to actually visit the museum due to the pandemic or geographical distance, to explore and enjoy a vast number of museum offerings.
She added that people like her, working in museums don’t only want people to come in to a space to just look at objects, but rather for the interaction, the social aspect of them being there as a family unit or a group that is important.

Ataya stressed that museum visitors are much more likely to discuss and express thoughts about objects they see in physical space, than something they see online on their own.

Ataya referred to SMA’s experience of swiftly launching virtual tours, online workshops, and uploading  hundreds of objects from its collections to its website and by partnering with the ‘Museum With No Frontiers’ website for people to enjoy viewing and learning from the comfort of their homes. 

It also put the exhibition of Aida Muluneh’s Homebound: A Journey in Photography online and offered a virtual tour of over 100 art works from the Sharjah Art Museum’s permanent collection of Arab modern art which included artists such as, Dia Azzawi, Etel Adnan,Ibrahim El Salahi and Saloua Choucair represented in the online experience. 

Despite life gradually coming back to normal, Ataya said cultural establishments need to continue to strategise and develop plans that would ensure safety of staff and visitors, quicker responses to changes in program delivery and overall cooperating with fellow organisations to better utilise resources and knowledge. 

Ataya said that the global situation has proven to consider and address these new realities and continuously rethink the focus of the experience we are providing. As our audiences become more diverse especially with a greater number of younger audiences. 
The forum which will be broadcasted from UNESCO headquarters in partnership with Zhi Zheng Art Museum in Shenzhen (China), is organised to raise the general public’s awareness about the essential role of museums and sustainable development in light of the new challenges created by COVID-19 and to strengthen political commitment by demonstrating the transformative power of museums in contemporary societies. 

The first edition of the forum took place in 2016 in Shenzhen, China.
September 24, 2021 / 5:34 PM

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