Sharjah Museums Authority celebrates 30th anniversary of its Archaeology Museum

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Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) marks the 30th Anniversary of the opening of the Sharjah Archaeology Museum, the emirate’s first cultural institution that was established in 1993 to showcase archeological material excavated in the emirate of Sharjah and document the rich history that has shaped our understanding of the region.

An increase in the number of excavations and unique discoveries in the Emirate of Sharjah, specifically in the city of Kalba and Mleiha, paved the way for establishing the first museum of its kind in the Emirate.

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Following directives from Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, a committee comprising Emirati and French museology experts, as well as archaeologists who worked in various Sharjah sites, was tasked in 1988 to help with the establishment of the museum.

Prior to officially inaugurating the museum on the January 5 in1993, the Ruler of Sharjah gifted the new museum numerous objects of great significance. He also issued a dedicated law in 1992 that aims to further protect archeological sites and discoveries and to fight the illegal trade and smuggling of artefacts.

“It is a great day for SMA to commemorate this important milestone of a truly one of a kind museum in the UAE and Gulf region,” said Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority.

“I am privileged to have had the opportunity over these many years to oversee the development of the museum’s offerings and ensure we have stronger community engagement via our programs and exhibitions. I have personally been committed to greater scholarship, collaboration, and to narrating the remarkable story of the UAE’s ancient history,” Ataya added.

Several halls at the three-floor landmark showcased objects dating back to different eras including the Neolithic era, the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC, the Iron Age, Hellenistic era, and Islamic era. Other halls were dedicated to restoration of artefacts and antiquities.

In May 1997, following directives from Sheikh Sultan, the museum relocated to its current premises in order to accommodate the surge in the number of discoveries in Sharjah, thanks to the efforts of Sharjah Archaeology Authority and various archeological teams.

After becoming responsible for running the museum alongside 16 other museums across the emirate in 2006, SMA continues to put forth intensive efforts to develop the museum’s dedicated library, its displayed collection, and intensify its educational workshops for schools and the public. It has over the years published various specialized books on archaeology and catalogs of its exhibitions.

These publications and accompanying community programs such as archaeology lectures and conferences have collectively provided knowledge and further supported the understanding of early settlements in Sharjah and the Arabian Peninsula dating back to 125,000 years ago.

Encouraging curiosity and accessible learning being at the heart of its goals, SMA has just recently opened the UAE’s first children’s interactive hall at the museum.

The hall -- employing playful teaching methods and techniques -- introduces children to the origins and development of Sharjah’s human culture, history, and development.

Under the leadership of Director General Manal Ataya, the museum has become of paramount importance as a source of knowledge for scholars, students, and enthusiasts, and with the creation of a temporary exhibition space, it has organized numerous unprecedented exhibitions over the years with various institutions in the Arab region.

Distinctive exhibitions organized by the Authority at the Archeology Museum so far include, “Petra, Desert Wonder” in 2016/2017, “The Echo of Caravans: Pre-Islamic Civilisation Sites in Saudi Arabia” in 2018, “The Splendid Archeology of Kuwait” in 2019/2020, and the interactive exhibition “Deir el-Medina: Village of the Pharaohs’ Artists” which was organized in 2021/2022 in collaboration with the Egyptian Museum in Turin.

Most recently, Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the “Omani Civilisation: Origin and Development” exhibition in the presence of Salem bin Mohammed Al Mahrouqi, Minister of Heritage and Tourism of the Sultanate of Oman.

The exhibition which runs until June, marks the first time these artefacts from Oman are being displayed outside the Sultanate.

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