In December-29 2022, the Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah/The al-Sabah Collection entered an agreement with Kuwait University to facilitate the development of an undergraduate museum studies programme.
The purpose of the programme is to create opportunities for students at the university to augment their history studies with theoretical and practical applications relevant to today’s museums.
With the opening of The al-Sabah Collection (TaSC) galleries at the Kuwait National Museum in 1983, the Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI) established itself as an interactive entity dedicated to sharing the art and culture of the Islamic world in the best way possible. From curating a collection that includes the full chronology, geographical spread and media of the Islamic world to looking beyond the advent of Islam to reveal the influences that led to “Islamic art”, the DAI has always thrived on discovery and dialogue. An early commitment to sharing TaSC objects with leading cultural institutions around the world allowed visitors on a a truly global scale to become part of that dialogue.
Since their inception, the role of museums has continually evolved. No longer are they places to be visited with reverential awe or static facilities that warehouse objects to preserve and protect heritage items for scholars and a select few to view. Instead, museums like the Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah’s Amricani Cultural Centre and the Kuwait National Museum are designed to provide opportunities for visitors to engage with the objects and the stories the objects tell. Today’s museums continue their education role, but in a much more interactive way, becoming as entertaining as they are informative.
In addition, museums and affiliated organisations are sharing intangible culture with the same enthusiasm as objects are shared. The discovery and dialogue continue, but take on a more “lively” role with the inclusion the performing arts and hands-on learning opportunities. The DAI and TaSC are actively marrying the tangible and intangible elements of history and culture, incorporating theatre, music, workshops and other live events into the annual cultural season programme.
For more than 40 years, the DAI and TaSC have been learning from other museums, the expansion of museology and, to be honest, trial and error. Like museums around the world, the DAI and the TaSC have evolved and become more interactive and effective at sharing the stories of the objects in the collection and the culture and history the objects represent. The relationship with Kuwait University will also evolve, as their students become involved in learning from Kuwait’s museums and, ultimately, teaching the museums and future students how to further enhance the benefits of museum visits.