The symposium, taking place from 16th to 18th November 2020, will address the new responsibilities and challenges facing museums today, as well as showcase innovative opportunities.
On the importance of co-hosting this symposium, Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, commented, “As we mark Louvre Abu Dhabi’s third anniversary this November, we acknowledge that now, more than ever, museums are vital in providing comfort, empathy, and understanding to communities during difficult times. Necessary conversations around sustainability, accessibility, education as well as diversity and inclusion, compel museums to question the status quo and to revisit the cultural canon.”
Dr. Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of New York University Abu Dhabi, said, “Many of the challenges museums are facing today were problems well before COVID-19, but the pandemic has forced all museum directors, curators, users, and funders to address them head-on. Who and what are museums for? How can the museum compete with the virtual resources of the digital age? What is the museum’s relevance for people who had little or no say in their creation? How can collections of compromised or uncertain provenance ever play a legitimate role in a museum? Can museums compete with entertainment? Can museums revision what is included in their local or global remit, and find new purpose by healing the exclusions of the past?”
Global luminaries confirmed include Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak (Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi); Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi (Sharjah Art Foundation); David Wrisley (NYUAD); Eugene Tan (Singapore Art Museum); Jean-Luc Martinez (Musée du Louvre); Kaywin Feldman (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC); Kwame Anthony Appiah (philosopher, cultural theorist, novelist and professor with NYU and NYU Abu Dhabi); Manal Ataya (Sharjah Museums Authority); Max Hollein (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Mikhail Piotrovsky (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg); Peter Magee (Zayed National Museum) and Yang Zhigang (Shanghai Museum). Manuel Rabaté and Mariët Westermann will also engage in an opening and closing discussion on each day of the symposium.
The discussions, themed around three institutional pillars, Collections, Building/Site, and People, will be explored through roundtables and the presentation of case studies. The “Collections” pillar will address the current move from collection building to collection sharing, including the shift of focus from acquisition to storytelling, the exchange and collaboration between museums in light of the pandemic, and the reinvention of copy culture in the digital age.
“Roundtables around Building/Site” will focus on whether the physical spaces of a museum serve the current context and how new civic roles that museums are being asked to fill, can or should transform the museum space. The third discussion pillar “People” will centre around the question “whose museum?” including issues of ownership, inclusion, and new civic roles of museums that reflect the peoples, histories, and realities of the diverse communities they serve. With the notion of ownership and expertise being called into question, how can museums stay relevant in our rapidly changing world?