Manal Ataya highlights museums as contemporary spaces for community building

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Manal Ataya, the Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA), has highlighted the significant role museums play as community spaces for dialogue and social bonding during her remarks delivered on Tuesday as part of the ‘Museum Talks’ series at Etihad Museum.

Ataya participated as a speaker in the Museum Talks panel titled “Museums in the Landscape” organized as part of a public program in partnership with Alserkal Advisory with a view to shifting the perception of the museum into a more contemporary space and reinforcing it as a site of dialogue, exchange and how the design of museums can affect community participation and sense of belonging.

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SMA’s Director General was invited in recognition of her ongoing efforts and position as a long-standing UAE cultural figure who has developed the museum ecosystem and audience ‘loyalization’ in the emirate of Sharjah.

In the discussion, Ataya underlined how the museum exists as, and within a socio-economic and cultural ecosystem with various partners and stakeholders to achieve knowledge sharing, inspire curiosity and creativity and overall, positively affect social change.

“The human experience in its most broad meaning is key to what museums represent and do, therefore we must ensure museum spaces and programs enhance dialogue where people can meet, reflect and share,” she said.

Ataya illustrated how contemporary museums are architecturally designed to grapple with issues concerning their surrounding communities to help bring change and development and eventually contribute to community building.

She stressed that museums help build their communities and are currently functioning more as community centers by providing access to new activities and creative thoughts.

“Museums are increasingly becoming part of the community building process thanks to their architectural design and often where they are positioned in their communities, in Sharjah for instance, the majority of our museums are situated in residential neighborhoods and are accessible by walking and are embedded within other civic spaces that people and children gather,” Ataya emphasized.

Participating alongside Ataya in the discussion that was moderated by Sumaya Dabbagh, Founder of Dabbagh Architects, were Brian Rudy, Partner, Moriyama and Teshima Architects, Mohammed Al Riffai from Moriyama and Teshima Architects.

The public program embraces an overarching strategy manifested in the idea of ‘Contemporary Histories’ where the Etihad Museum engages the contemporary voices who are shaping the notion of ‘Emiratiness’ in all its forms.

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