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International Museum Day 2021 — ‘The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine’

May 17,2021 - Last updated at May 17,2021

The passing years have been difficult on the entire world, where the COVID-19 global pandemic has had severe socio-economic consequences on all sectors. In a country like Jordan, rich in diverse cultural and natural heritage assets, with more than 40 museums of various types, that effect is not an exception. 

But how museums in Jordan responded? What would empower the implementation of the COVID-19 recovery plans for the future of museums?

Museums are part of the cultural-educational sector as well as dynamic community hubs. Many Jordanian museums innovated rapidly, notably with accelerated digitalisation, through different initiatives, that were already under way, such as The Jordan Museum, which has launched a virtual reality experience over the internet. Moreover, The Children Museum produced online interactive educational materials to engage the children during the lockdowns in their activities. On the museum data management level, the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Amman, in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities, is developing a database to be adapted for the Jordanian archaeological museums. 

The potentials of widening innovation strategies to better account for the role of museums are high, but what would make efforts more effective in preparing and discussing the COVID-19 recovery plans at a national level. Addressing the risks with objectivity is essential to the recovery from the COVID-19 catastrophe. It is not only about the decline in the number of visitors during the crisis; traditional museums are under tremendous pressure to embrace technology for documentation, communication, interpretation, or other purposes, with minimal infrastructure for some of them. How do we expect a museum to produce online educational materials, for example, while it still has a low-quality Internet connection? The pandemic exposed the fragility of the digital infrastructure in the country, while Jordan is considered a regional leader in digital transformation initiatives in other sectors. 

Several international institutions have set out the structure of the socio-economic recovery plans that offer a roadmap of options to help guide the efforts based on applied disaster recuperation experience and established methods and evidence, such as the United Nations and the International Recovery Platform. Learning from the international experience, while analysing the risks at a national level is the start of the recovery process. Nothing would replace touching a pot or an embroidered dress displayed in a museum. Nevertheless, digital engagement in museums is no longer a privilege as everyone is now immersed in the online world. A hybrid flexible experimental approach that would respond to unprecedented pandemics is the key. Sector-specific analysis at a national level with an eye on international practices and a consideration of the change in the target communities are the future of museums.

It is said; Necessity is the mother of invention, the sustainable future of museums requires supporting the digital infrastructure, building partnerships among museums and organisation in other sectors, and effectively engaging the audience to deliver the museum message and recreate their role in societies as a catalyst of the socio-cultural recovery. 

The writer is an architect and heritage manager. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times.


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