Future of museums: Abu Dhabi’s Louvre, NYU to host prestigious meeting on challenges

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Global art experts are set to meet virtually next month to discuss how the museum sector can survive and adapt amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

A new virtual symposium held by Louvre Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYU-AD) will bring together prominent global scholars, artists, and museum experts on November 16 to 18 for a public discussion on the future of art museums.

Titled “Reframing Museums,” the symposium will address how museums can stay relevant in a rapidly changing world and how these institutions can implement innovative solutions to overcome challenges like COVID-19, among other topics.

Read more: Museums respond to societies’ needs even during a global crisis, says Manal Ataya

Featured guests include the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi’s Chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, President of the Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez, Director of the Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky, Sharjah Art Foundation’s President Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, and Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Max Hollein.

Many of the challenges museums face today were present before the coronavirus pandemic, according to NYU-AD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann.

“But the pandemic has forced all museum directors, curators, users, and funders to address them head on,” Westermann said in a statement.

These complex challenges need to be urgently addressed, according to Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi Manuel Rabaté, as “now, more than ever museums are vital in providing comfort, empathy, and understanding to communities during difficult times.”

Creating a digital collection

The coronavirus pandemic has made virtual exhibits more popular, including for Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The museum – which reopened to the public in June after a 100-day closure – has used technology to widen its audience at a time when its in-person visitors are fewer due to global coronavirus preventative measures.

The museum recently launched an online collection, featuring a selection of 120 “masterpieces,” which can be viewed free on the museum’s website.

The project started in February 2019, but the new circumstances brought about by COVID-19 encouraged the staff to accelerate the museum’s digital presence, according to Faten Rochdy, head of the museum’s resource center unit.

“This project allows viewers at home and around the world to dive deeper into our collection, which serves as a chrono-thematic journey of human creativity from Neolithic times to the present day,” Rochdy told Al Arabiya English.

Some of the most remarkable pieces in the collection include an ancient plank idol with two heads from the island of Cyprus that dates back to between 2300-1900 BC, a page of the Blue Quran that dates back to the 800-900 AD, and a monumental lion from Spain from around 1000-1200 AD.

Viewers are also given exclusive access to artwork that is kept in storage due to light sensitivity reasons, and not on display in the museum.

The collection is available in in Arabic, English, and French.

Creating new language

The museum’s research center has also begun a new project focused on developing precise Arabic translations for art historical terms that did not previously exist.

The project ‘Bil Arabi’ (“In Arabic”) aims to build a trilingual thesaurus of art history terms in Arabic, English, and French.

It involves all Arabic speakers of the museum’s curatorial and the research center teams.

The thesaurus is intended to be a reference tool for the museum, students, and academics.

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