Recently, Louvre Abu Dhabi and NYU Abu Dhabi saw the conclusion of Reframing Museums, the three-day virtual symposium. This first co-hosted virtual edition saw over 1,000 participants registered to hear from a diverse group of more than 70 speakers, moderators and facilitators from five continents, all gathered to address the current challenges and opportunities for arts and culture institutions the world over.
With the symposium reaching capacity prior to the launch, free access to recordings of the sessions have been made available to the public, on both the Reframing Museums website and dedicated YouTube channel.
Louvre Abu Dhabi and NYUAD also announced the publication of content from the symposium, by Akkadia Press, which will be available from next summer.
HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said: “In Abu Dhabi and all over the world, this has been a year of physical separation, but happily in many other ways our global society has been brought closer together. We will only succeed in securing our future as a collective – in our shared wisdom, determination, and resilience – all reaffirmed by the many voices who joined us for this virtual symposium. This platform of open debate mirrors the message echoing through the halls of the world’s great museums and educational institutions: we must celebrate universality, and address what it means to truly accept and understand one another.
Al Mubarak added: “This symposium is not a one-time opportunity; arts and culture are at the centre of Abu Dhabi’s agenda, as we continually harness the power of culture to expand minds and hearts. Reframing Museums reflects our core values of openness and understanding, and we look forward to hosting further events, which convene global voices for these important conversations of cross-cultural exchange, growing and collaborating to the benefit of us all. We will continue to reach out to audiences around the world by embracing a hybrid physical-online model, and we hope that global circumstances will soon allow us to welcome all of you to Abu Dhabi in-person, to experience Louvre Abu Dhabi and our many other cultural sites.”
Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, commented: “What is very clear is that museums start with their collections, with the narratives built around them, but museums are nothing without their public. The current crisis has attacked humanity itself, and it is forcing all museums to undertake rapid transformation. We know that museums are fragile, yet throughout these sessions we saw important values—of solidarity, empathy, agility, balance, sustainability, and knowledge—echoed by all participants. In thinking about how we incorporate these values at Louvre Abu Dhabi, we will experiment with polysemy and polyphony. By polysemy, I mean the many meanings and stories each object in a museum collection contains; and by polyphony, I refer to the diversity of voices within those stories. We need to listen to these voices, and amplify them in the stories we tell. Louvre Abu Dhabi is a place for knowledge and research, in collaboration with universities and academia. I see it as a place for learning, for education, for curiosity, and discovery. It is a place for storytelling, for enjoyment, a place for listening and humility. But also— and this is what is most relevant—it is a place for healing and for resilience. I believe museums have a role to play in the after-crisis, and we hope to continue to define this role together, through future co-hosted symposia with NYU Abu Dhabi.”
Points that recurred throughout the roundtables, case studies, and networking session chats among the public included maintaining the museum space as a civic as well as cultural point of exchange amidst rising nationalism around the world; forays into the digital and virtual spaces for exhibitions and the associated pitfalls and challenges; and the need for solidarity among institutions to tackle the current fiscal and health crisis through collective dialogue and inquiry.
The opening day’s panel on New business models beyond tourism and the blockbuster show saw frank exchanges around what may have been previously taboo revenue streams, looking at museums as brands with licensing potential. Day two’s panel, Voices of authority: expertise, participation and inclusion in the museum of tomorrow was a meaningful and authentic session that saw calls for shattering insular thinking, for Western institutions to look to the Global South for the way forward. On the final day’s programme, the last roundtable of the day discussed whether traditional academic qualifications for becoming a museum curator were sufficient, or even necessary, to succeed in that role.
Keynote speeches addressed a variety of topics, from the origins of the museum itself to the scientific and historic movements that influenced their physical spaces today; a history of how we’ve come to see art and museums as national projects, to what it looks like now, in the present, to be building from the ground-up a museum of the future with foundations built on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
The three-day symposium saw HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, open the symposium with a welcome keynote, with opening remarks following from Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYUAD, and Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi. A further six keynote speeches were delivered, by HE Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth; Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law at NYU and NYUAD; Jean-Luc Martinez, President and Director, Musée du Louvre, Paris; historian and philosopher Krzysztof Pomian; Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Director of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art; and Emirati poet and film director Nujoom Al Ghanem.
All sessions have been recorded and are available to view via the Reframing Museums YouTube channel. Currently, replay videos are available in English; Arabic and French-language videos are forthcoming.