USF's Museum Blog

Social Change in Central Asia

by Shabnam Shermatova

Editor’s Note: Shabnam Shermatova (MA in Museum Studies ’17) is currently attending USF as Fulbright Scholar. A citizen of Tajikistan, a small nation that sits between China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan,  she  was worked at the National Museum of Tajikistan and the Bactria Cultural Center and this summer she will be interning at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Social Change as a Museum’s Mission

Before arriving at University of San Francisco, I worked for 2 years as the National Museum of Tajikistan’s (NMT) head of marketing and special programs department in the capital Dushanbe.



The Fann Mountain Range frames Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the largest city in the country

My biggest success was helping to launch my country’s first museum night in May 2013. It was one of the most popular and a large-scale public museum events in Tajikistan’s history and it became annual event. An estimated 7,000 people attended a two-day event.

I realized then that what I really loved about museums is bringing different communities together to learn from each other. I wanted to build a group of young creative leaders to connect different institutions and local communities with each other. But how to do that, was the question.


National Museum of Tajikistan


To make my dream come true, I applied for a Fulbright scholarship and to USF’s graduate Museum Studies program.  USF was my number one choice because of its diverse and multi-aspect approach to studying the museum field, and its focus on social justice issues. I’ve been in the program for almost a year now and am concentrating on the role of museums as socially active institutions whose primary concern is not only to preserve cultural and historical objects for future generations but also to imagine ways of improving community members’ lives. Specifically, I want to investigate cases when museums become sensitive and responsive to its communities concerns and interests.

Today, I am interning at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where I’m advancing my research on civic engagement and educational/artistic practices in museums, and sociopolitical issues and artistic reactions. I’m also learning the legal, financial, and event planning aspects of museums.


Shabnam Shermatova (far right) with fellow USF students (from left to right) Alli Pohl, Sarah Mackey, Lindsey Stoll,  and Hannah Somerville speaking at a Museum Studies Graduate Student Association Panel in April 2016


I’ve met many interesting and creative professionals through USF, my involvement as a fellow at the American Alliance of Museums, and Fulbright. I hope to connect this network with Tajik art and museum professionals and theorists, thereby putting my home country and its sociopolitical context on the contemporary art map.

I hope one day I’ll organize collaborative projects between U.S. art institutions and partners in Tajikistan. Ultimately, I want to bring my passion, knowledge, and experience back to my home country and engage other leaders in building a stronger and a more creative community.

You can read more about Shabnam’s work in Tajikistan by clicking here.

Shabnam will be speaking about her work and vision at Mastered on Thursday, May 26 from 6pm – 8pm at the Children’s Creativity Museum: 221 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103.  The event is sponsored by Bay Area Emerging Museum Professionals

For more information on USF’s Museum Studies program, click here.

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