The National Museum of Qatar’s (NMoQ) in-depth spaces and exhibits will give visitors a one-of-its-kind interactive experience as they go through its 11 interlinked galleries, NMoQ’s Learning and Outreach associate director Dr Alan Michael Kirwan has said.
“People would be moving through the museum scenario that they’ve not really encountered before, it is very different,” he told educators and other attendees at Qatar Museums’ Teachers Council, held recently at the Museum of Islamic Art Auditorium.
Dr Kirwan was giving a glimpse of the varied features and collections displayed at each of the museum’s galleries, as well as its programmes catering to teachers and students.
NMoQ, scheduled to officially open on March 28, is expected to attract a large number of residents and visitors. It is arranged in three chapters – Beginnings, Life in Qatar, and Building the Nation.
“The whole museum is brought to life in a very immersive and interactive way so when people come through these spaces there is a very large all around art films that contextualise the objects in the installations they will be looking at,” Dr Kirwan said.
Organised in three ‘acts’, he noted that the first ‘act’ comprised of galleries one, two and three; ‘act’ two is from gallery four to seven, and ‘act’ three forms the last batch of galleries.
One of the unique features of NMoQ exhibits includes encouraging visitors to touch the objects displayed in its galleries.
At gallery one, Dr Kirwan said visitors of all ages, including students, will discover and be introduced to early geological processes that form the land mass of Qatar, including fossils and meteorites, as well as the history of the solar system and the universe.
“Galleries one and two are quite connected. In gallery two, people will be brought on a journey across the environments and the habitats of the country,” he added. “Students might get an amazing experience with the different flora and fauna of Qatar.”
Gallery three showcases the archaeology of Qatar, Dr Kirwan said. It also has a focus on a town way back to the 9th century, which he noted was an important stop point along the silk road.
At gallery four (part of ‘act’ 2), visitors will experience a lot of navigation and movements, which includes the journey explaining why the Qatari people, for many centuries, were known to be expert travellers, and trackers.
Meanwhile, museum-goers will encounter ‘albar’ at gallery five. In the desert, this area looks at the ‘nomadic’ culture of the country.
“They will get to experience something that we hear about but we never know in-depth about, so they will hear about processes of the movement of people in the different seasons, and the animals that were important to them,” Dr Kirwan said. “And something that is truly beautiful in there is an array of textiles and decorations (art and craft).”
Gallery six, he noted, is about life on the coast where people will be brought back out of the desert to a cooler environment.
“Visitors can explore the world of the pearl divers and they will see this beautiful array of dhows and how they were designed, the importance of the sea and the coastal life of Qatar for many generations,” Dr Kirwan added.
One of NMoQ’s galleries also has a particular focus on Al Zubarah, a Unesco World Heritage Site, which also shows the global links that Qatar has had for centuries.
Gallery seven highlights “the pearls in their own brilliance” as QM is known to have the best pearls and jewellery collections in the world.
“Students will get to see how Gulf pearls have been incorporated into the designs of costumes, jewellery of different world cultures, so there is an array of fantastic costumes on display,” Dr Kirwan told teachers at the event.
“There is a particularly fabulous object from India, a carpet that would be displayed the amount of pearls and emeralds, you name it, it is there, it has a fantastic 250 year old history,” he added.
The final ‘act’, from galleries eight onwards, introduces the modern history of Qatar, during the late 18th century onwards. “Visitors will hear about the Portuguese, Ottomans – the Turkish legacy, and the British and what they have contributed.”
“The important thing about gallery eight is it is the foundation of the State. It talks about the importance of the Qatari people defining their new nation, and it also looks at the discovery of the oil and gas and what that meant for the people here,” Dr Kirwan said, adding that the journey ends at the Old Palace – “a nice cyclical end to your story, you go back to the beginning in a way because it is the heart of the museum.”
The Old Palace dates back to the early 1910s, and it was the actual home of one of the first modern founders of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani. It was the first National Museum, which opened in 1975 and it closed two decades later in the 1990s.
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