Museums Palestinian Authority

Palestinian Museum remains on track despite Gaza conflict

Director says museum in West Bank will connect communities of the diaspora

Jack Persekian spoke this month at a conference organised by the Art Fund in London

Plans for the new Palestinian Museum in the West Bank are moving forward despite escalating conflict in the region, says its director Jack Persekian. Foundation stones were laid in April last year for the $19m building, designed by the Dublin-based architectural firm Heneghan Peng, in Birzeit, north of Ramallah.

“The current conflict makes coming to the museum building fairly unattractive for everyone,” says Persekian. Nevertheless, the construction team has almost completed the skeleton of the building, he says. The building is due to be completed by September next year with a soft opening of the museum planned for early 2016.

Meanwhile, the latest round of fighting in the Israel-Gaza conflict between Hamas and the Israeli military, which began 8 July, has claimed at least 1,115 Palestinian lives and 55 Israeli victims, according to the BBC. On the West Bank several Palestinians have reportedly been killed and many wounded in clashes with Israeli forces.

“In general, in Palestine we are constantly aware of the security issues, and we know all too well that in this situation everything is vulnerable,” Persekian says. Accessing the museum can be difficult regardless of the current situation, he adds. “The impediments to movement around Palestine remain; for Palestinians, given the documents they carry and the places they live, this looks unlikely to change.”

An online, multimedia timeline of Palestinian history, charting events that have shaped Palestine history from the mid 19th century to today, is a key institution project. The inaugural exhibition, “Never Part”, will focus on the experience of ordinary Palestinian to provide “an alternative narrative of the history in modern times”, Persekian says. “I must stress that the museum does not consist of a single building in Birzeit: in its essence, the museum is really about the network we are creating between the Palestinian communities here and across the world,” he says.

The museum also aims to play a major role in this year’s edition of the biennial Qalandiya International festival (22 October-15 November) with a show that focuses on how collections were built in museums across Palestine.

The museum is a flagship project of the Welfare Association, a London-based non-profit organisation, which describes its aim on its website as “the reduction of poverty for marginalised Palestinian communities”. The charity provides the current operational costs for the new museum.

CLARIFICATION: The Welfare Association is based in Ramallah, registered in Switzerland and has a branch in London. "The Welfare Association is an independent non-profit organisation established in 1983 by a group of Palestinian business and intellectual figures to provide development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank including Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, 1948 Areas, and the Palestinian communities in Lebanon," a spokeswoman says.

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