By Lydia Marouf
My first semester at the University of San Francisco as a Museum Studies graduate student heightened my appreciation of just how significant museums can be to our communities. As a Palestinian growing up under occupation, my experiences of, and exposure to, museums were quite limited. Despite Palestine’s rich history, most museums in Palestine are small and poorly funded institutions.
The Palestinian Museum, which is set to open in 2016, aims to serve and help rejoin a fragmented Palestinian community in Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. As stated on its website, the Palestinian Museum’s mission is to “act as a dynamic, innovative forum for the exchange and development of knowledge and ideas connected to Palestinian society, history and culture. Combining exhibitions with educational programs and research projects, the Museum will be a place for inspiration, dialogue, and reflection. Through its digital platforms and international partners it aims to connect with Palestinians wherever they are in the world, and with all those interested in Palestine.”
While I visited my hometown of Ramallah in December 2014, I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Jack Persekian, Director of the Palestinian Museum. He explained to me the difficult circumstances of establishing a museum under military occupation: circumstances that are both daunting and inspiring at the same time. The Museum plans to reconnect the fragmented Palestinian community, both in Palestine and abroad, by becoming a ‘museum without borders,’ reaching out virtually to those who are unable to visit the region in person, due to Israeli military restrictions.
I wanted to share the significant efforts undertaken by Mr. Persekian and the new Palestinian Museum with my fellow classmates and professors, and realized that I might be able to accomplish this goal through my new position as President of USF’s Museum Studies Graduate Association (MSGA). Every semester, this organization works tirelessly to plan university-wide events for high-level museum professionals to come and speak at USF. My Museum Studies cohort and professors were all very excited and supportive to host Mr. Persekian at USF, and to learn more about the Palestinian Museum. Working with MSGA and my Museum Studies cohort, we hosted Mr. Persekian’s visit to USF in early May. His public lecture to our community, entitled Building the Palestinian Museum, took place on May 6, 2015 in McLaren Hall on the USF campus.
Mr. Persekian introduced us to the Palestinian Museum and its inaugural exhibition, “Never Part.” It will feature objects from individual Palestinians from all walks of life who are lending their own treasured possessions. The exhibit plans to showcase these objects along with the stories of their owners, therefore telling the collective story of Palestine and its people. The Palestinian Museum is thus focusing on who Palestinians are as a people, a community, and a society, as well as on their rich history. This powerful exhibition will portray the story of Palestinians from multiple and unique perspectives, and in doing so will honor all Palestinians.
For more on “Never Part,” and why this project is so powerful, see this short Palestinian Museum video :
I would like to thank Jack Persekian of the Palestinian Museum for his time. The lecture was truly inspiring and shone a bright light on the power and importance of museums for building communities around the world. I would also like to thank my fellow MSGA officers (Hillary Eichinger, Victor Crosetti, and Rheilly Llanos) and our advisor Kate Lusheck for all their support.
For more information on USF’s Museum Studies program, click here.