Casablanca - Few Moroccans realize the importance of museums. A survey conducted in both the Ben M’sik neighborhood and Ben M’sik Faculty of Letters and Humanities in Casablanca clearly exhibits the very limited interest of Moroccans for museums. The survey clearly demonstrated the respondents’ lack of “museum culture”, and their reluctance to know more about and visit these institutions.
Casablanca – Few Moroccans realize the importance of museums. A survey conducted in both the Ben M’sik neighborhood and Ben M’sik Faculty of Letters and Humanities in Casablanca clearly exhibits the very limited interest of Moroccans for museums. The survey clearly demonstrated the respondents’ lack of “museum culture”, and their reluctance to know more about and visit these institutions.
According to the survey, a great portion of the respondents blame the sad fact that they have never visited a museum as part of school education experiences. They also attribute this to the expensive cost of visits to such institutions. Worse, however, is that some Moroccans think that museums are boring places, and that visiting them is both a waste of time and money.
Concerning those who responded “Yes” to the question “Have you ever visited a museum before?”, one still would be easily disappointed once realizing the names of places, institutions or even monuments which they listed in respondse to the question “Could you name those museums you have visited?”: Hassan II Mosque, Abdel Arrahman Cavern, Hiracles Cavern and Riad Jami, etc. Sadly, all these places, among others, have nothing or litte to do with museums and their missions, which logically adds those respondents to those who have never visited a museum before.
Admittedly, the results of a survey that was conducted in one area of Casablanca would absolutely not legitimize our generalizations on Moroccans’ perception of museums, at large.
Nevertheless, it is very important to note that most of the respondents to the survey were university students, a fact that would make generalizations much more applicable to the rest of the population. This is because university students are known for their critical thinking and academic curiosity, and thus one of the more likely populations to have visited a museum.
One thing that is certain is that most Moroccans are not yet aware of the importance of museums in their society, and of the key roles these institutions can play in both the educational and social lives of citizens (to be discussed in another article). Both education and media are to blame for the sad truth exhibited above.
Moroccan media seldom brings up museums and their issues in its TV programs and shows, and when that even occurs, museums are depicted as exotic destinations for tourists, who are curious about Moroccan culture and history. This explains the survey’s respondents’ positions towards museums (presented above). It also explains the deteriorating condition of some neglected museums in Morocco.
Besides media, the Moroccan educational system shares responsibility for Moroccans’ reluctance to visit museums. There is a noticeable absence of educational programs that would teach children, at early ages, the fundamentals about cultural institutions, the reasons why they exist and their key role in society.
As concerns, higher education, unless a student specializes in a field that relates to museums, chances are s/he will never have any course that would instruct him/her to go to thwse institutions. University students, however, remain responsible for not taking the initiative and instructing themselves about these cultural institutions.
Moreover, Moroccan museums, themselves, are to be blamed for most Moroccans’ negative perceptions of and their reluctance to visit them. Unlike museums in foreign countries, those in Morocco do not organize any significant cultural or didactic programs or outreach with the objective of familiarizing Moroccans with these institutions and teaching them about their importance and instrumental role in society.
Predictably, I realize that some might argue that museums in foreign countries get more financial support from both governmental and non-governmental organizations, allowing them to organize such didactic programs without exposing the institutions’ budget to risk. It would be however ridiculous to say that simple didactic outreach efforts—such as presentations and games for kids—at primary schools located in the surrounding community of a particular museum, for example, necessitate financial support.
Moroccans need to be aware that museums are not only places where artifacts of a particular historical and/or cultural value are exhibited to the public for the sake of entertainment. They need to know that museums are not exclusively built for tourists or intellectual, elite and cultivated people citizens in Morocco.
They need to observe how other countries devote a significant portion of their GDP for the maintenance and support of these institutions, and ask themselves “Why do they do that?” Moroccans need to know that any cultural or artistic institutions, be they theaters, musical conservatories or dance studios, cinemas, galleries, and, of course, museums too, are all “change agents” in society.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti