By Youssef Sourgo
By Youssef Sourgo
Morocco Word News
Casablanca, April 29, 2013
The role of museums from their very first conception in ancient Greece down to the present time has drastically changed. Ancient Greece’s mouseion, where the modern appellation museum finds its roots, were said to be places for collective contemplation and meditation. It is only during the Italian Renaissance that museums started to develop the traditional mission of collecting and exposing objects and belongings of high value.
In 2001, a definition formulated by the International Council of Museums incorporated ‘education and enjoyment’ as two major roles of museums.
In Morocco, museum professionals and curators are becoming increasingly aware of the role of these cultural institutions in our society. Thus, shedding more light on museums and their concerns through constructive dialogue among museum professionals has become more of a necessity than an option.
In this respect, the Faculty of Letters and Humanities of Ben M’sik (Hassan II-Mohammedia University), in Casablanca, organized last Thursday, April 25, the first Moroccan symposium of its kind on the theme “Museums at the heart of society.”
“It is the first time that museum professionals and university professors meet in a Moroccan university to share experiences and debate the conditions of museums in Morocco,” said Professor El Azhar, coordinator of the Ben M’sik Community Museum (BMCM).
‘Identity,’ ‘patrimony,’ ‘local and national memory,’ ‘belonging,’ ‘education,’ and many other themes were addressed during this event. Touching on these topical concerns in relation to museums in Morocco, insightful talks were given by representatives from varying Moroccan museum institutions and universities.
Museum experience in the Ben M’sik neighborhood and faculty was one of the major topics that echoed throughout the event. The role and achievements of the Ben M’isk Community Museum, an institution based at the heart of Ben M’sik Faculty of Letter’s campus, was discussed as an example of a socially engaged museum.
Since its inception in 2006, the BMCM, the Muslim world’s first community museum, has been embarking on local, national and international projects and initiatives that faithfully reflect its central mission, which is “to preserve memory by interpreting, exhibiting, and promoting the stories and heritage of the diverse populations of the [Ben M’sik] neighborhood and its region.”
“The Ben M’sik Community Museum strives to raise awareness about the role of museums in preserving people’s cultural heritage,” stated Professor El Azhar, coordinator of BMCM.
Relevant to the global theme of the event, which is “Museums at the heart of society,” the important relationship between museums and universities was another echoing topic of discussion during the event. “This event tried to show the importance of university museums in making students indulge in the different artistic and cultural activities, and in so doing, make them proud of their neighborhood, city and country,” shared Mr. El Azhar.
Entitled “The participative Approach of the Ben M’sik University Museum”, Professor El Azhar’s presentation during the event stressed the participative strategy that the BMCM museum has adopted since its instauration. The talk emphasized the different ways in which the BMCM successfully managed to achieve goals that benefited both its community and university. Professor El Azhar also emphasized community service and volunteerism as two key concerns of the collaborative strategy of BMCM.
Other presentations, talks and discussions shed light on a concern seldom discussed among museum professionals in Morocco, which is the collaborative strategies that can be established among museums and their immediate entourage first, then among Moroccan museums themselves. Local memory was discussed as an inseparable constituent of national history and patrimony. Hence, museums’ engagement in their local milieu was stressed as an important part of any museum’s mission.
International collaboration has also posed itself as a practical concern that Moroccan museums should aspire to. Collaboration between Moroccan and foreign museum professionals would accordingly boost the potential of Moroccan museums in a significant fashion. The successful and continuous collaboration between the Kennesew State University’s Museum of History and Holocaust education (Georgia, USA) and the Ben M’sik Community Museum (Ben M’sik, Casablanca) is one instance of a cross-cultural partnership that enriched the museum experience of its Moroccan participants.
The symposium culminated with an insightful discussion on the various concerns of Moroccan museums. In this culminating discussion, Museum professionals and university professors voiced their hopes for a more structured Moroccan museology, wherein museums would be accorded as serious an attention as that accorded to other cultural, social and educational institutions deemed fundamental to any society.
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