Dhakira, an applied research center based at New York University Abu Dhabi, provides the framework, tools, and platform to empower civil societies to become curators of their own heritage and custodians of their cultural memory.
Dhakira works in close cooperation with scholars, heritage communities, heritage authorities, and UNESCO. Its primary objective is to address the many regional and global challenges of the relatively young discipline of heritage studies. Dhakira is distinctive in its emphasis on providing an interdisciplinary research environment linking theory and practice.
At the forefront of new developments in humanities, sciences, and the arts, Dhakira promotes best practices while nurturing alternative approaches for inclusive and sustainable heritage management. It also builds on its experience with Digital Humanities to form a better understanding of heritage practices and to create connectivity.
Because of its base in the United Arab Emirates, Dhakira is linked to heritage sites worldwide through ancient and modern trade routes. The Gulf plays an important role in the changing perspectives on heritage. Regional ambitions to develop UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Universal Museums, and the emergence of the important role of local heritage in building national identities, show the area’s striking mix of heritage elements. Dhakira aims to contribute to the new paradigms for heritage studies emerging from this important and strategic location.
Through fostering a local, regional, and global network of scholars in the humanities and sciences, heritage professionals, heritage institutes, and local communities, Dhakira is a part of the multi-disciplinary structure of NYU Abu Dhabi, the NYU Global Network University, and its partners.
Heritage plays an increasingly important role in people’s identity. It has moved from its conservationist focus of preserving rare and aesthetically pleasing remains deemed valuable, into a globalized and multidisciplinary field at the heart of many cultural, social, political, and economic processes.
The expert-driven origin of the ‘heritage industry’ has shaped global models for heritage management. This traditional Eurocentric approach is increasingly challenged around the world. The shift in the discourse and the new heritage perspectives amongst scholars, heritage professionals, and communities provides the perfect opportunity for a center for heritage studies at a strategic cultural nexus like Abu Dhabi.
Following current issues and debates related to heritage and museum studies’ addressing the interdisciplinary, multilayered, and often contested nature of heritage.
Heritage is often thought of as a ‘thing,’ as a sort of already existing inheritance that is passed down to the next generations and requires identification and preservation. A much better grip on the concept of heritage is achieved by thinking of it as process rather than an object or fixed tradition, recognizing the fallacy of pre-existing heritage, and understanding that heritage is in fact made by people in an ongoing social process of giving value and meaning to specific sites, histories, and practices.
The goal of the HeritageLab is twofold: first is to provide the framework, tools, and platform to empower people and communities to become stakeholders in the creation and sharing process of their own stories; second, is to research and understand the process of heritage production and consumption at large, using our platform as field site.
Building on the experience of the rapidly developing field of Digital Humanities, the HeritageLab envisions the use of both big data as well as more local and specific stories to allow people to tell the stories they want, experimenting further with opening up data collections on a local and global level and permitting perspectives using multiple scales of reference.