A new museum dedicated to the history and culture of Palestine over the last two centuries is due to open in May next year in Birzeit, north of Jerusalem. In a controversial move, the planned launch date coincides with the 68th anniversary of the Nakba, when the Israeli state was established in 1948 and more than 750,000 Palestinians went into exile. “The decision to open the museum on 15 May is designed to underline the enduring importance of the Nakba to the museum’s work,” says Jack Persekian, the museum director.
An online, multimedia historical timeline, charting events that have shaped Palestine history from the mid-19th century to today, is a key project of the new institution. More than 5,000 family photographs have, meanwhile, been amassed and digitised for another museum initiative called the Family Album project. The museum’s collection will be built through acquisitions and donations.
Reaching out to the diaspora online is also a priority for Persekian. “The museum refuses to be constricted by geographical and political borders,” he says. “To this end, it is working to establish a whole network of partnerships around it, as well as using its digital platforms.” Persekian adds that the museum will collaborate on educational programmes with organisations in Jerusalem, Gaza, Amman, Beirut, Dubai and London, among other locations.
The museum is a flagship project of the Welfare Association, a non-profit organisation registered in Switzerland, which says it “is committed to providing development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians”. The charity has funded the capital and operational costs for the new museum. Foundation stones were laid in early 2013 for the $30m building, which is designed by the Dublin-based architectural firm Heneghan Peng.
The Palestinian Museum rendering