The best exhibits and shows to celebrate the museum's 25th anniversary
Time Out Bahrain staff
As Bahrain National Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary, we take a look at the collections, the history and what’s planned to mark this special birthday.
Bahrain National Museum was the first modern museum in the region and is housed in a truly awe-inspiring, landmark building by Danish architects HKR Arkitekter.
Arriving at the museum you’re greeted, before you even walk through the doors, by the sculpture garden which features a collection of statues and abstract pieces by notable Bahraini and international artists collected over several years.
Inside you’ll find an art gallery and a double decker exhibition space housing visiting displays from around the world – the current one is Russian textiles and soon the museum will host the Annual Fine Arts Exhibition.
Once you’ve strolled through those take yourself inside and prepare to be immersed in Bahraini history.
There are six permanent exhibitions which, together with the in-depth wall displays in the main hall, give an excellent introduction to the island’s many incarnations from its days as the centre of the Dilmun civilisation up to customs that are still practised today.
The Hall of Graves contains burial mounds, complete with their skeletal contents, painstakingly moved intact from the burial areas around A’ali.
Detailed descriptions explain some of the burial rituals of the time and there are also pointers to the ancient lifestyle, as shown by the uncovered bones.
The Dilmun exhibit deals with Bahrain’s heritage and the trading history of the island dating back several thousand years.
A separate exhibit outlines Bahrain’s Tylos period and the birth of Islam and there are also halls dealing with Bahraini trades and crafts, ancient manuscripts, local traditions.
However, since the museum is celebrating such an important birthday, the exhibits are due for a facelift so there are interesting times ahead.
To mark the anniversary there is an international conference titled ‘Rethinking Museum Display’ running from December 12-15. The conference will look into various international and regional projects of museum and gallery redevelopment, which will inform and feed into the redevelopment of Bahrain’s permanent exhibition galleries.
The conference will gather local, regional and international museum professionals to celebrate the anniversary together.
A major exhibition is also planned showcasing the history of Bahrain up to the modern day and there will be a celebration at the museum itself from 3pm-5pm on Sunday, December 15. More details of what’s planned are yet to be announced
Workshops and discussions Thursday, November 12, 2013
9.30am Welcome from Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Culture, museum director Rashad Faraj and Mounir Bouchenaki, director, UNESCOARC/WH.
10.00am Keynote Professor Knud Holscher, architect of Bahrain National Museum
10.30am - 11.20am • Session 1– Putting the Bahrain National Museum into context. Museum developments in the Gulf region • Museums, Modernity and Meaning: a discussion of cultural impact in the GCC - Karen Exell • Museums in Context: the communication of ‘place’ in exhibitions - Pamela Erskine Loftus
Noon -1.15pm • Session 2 – Creative display methods and rethinking permanent exhibitions • Putting the Arab World in a museum: a challenge - Eric Delpont • Concepts for staging and renovating permanent exhibitions - Gordon Davies • ‘What’s New?’ An evaluation of new museum displays in the UK - Marilyn Scott
2.45pm - 4.00pm • Session 3 – The use of new technology. Interactive and multimedia displays • Media in the Museum: a 25-year history - Selma Thomas • The curator as creator – why the digital future will change exhibitions forever - Stephen Feber • Rethinking Mineral Museums Display –mim: a mineral museum in Beirut - Suzy Hakimian
5.20pm - 6.00pm • Session 4 - Museums and heritage sites in Bahrain – an architectural and design approach • Archaeological heritage in Bahrain – an architectural approach - Claus Wohlert & Niels Friis • Back(to the)ground: Barbar Temples visitor centre and the Tree of Life visitor centre - Marwan Basmaji
8.00pm Official dinner Friday, December 13, 2013
10.00am -12.30pm The Bahrain National Museum – exhibition redesign status - Nadine Boksmati-Fattouh, Pierre Lombard & Didier Blin
1.30pm - 6.00pm Study visit of Bahrain’s museums and heritage sites - Qal’at al-Bahrain /Bahrain Fort Museum - burial ensembles of Dilmun and Tylos - Bait al Quran Museum - Rifaa Fort - Anne Jaffrennou & Chanel Seguin
8.00pm Official dinner Saturday, December 14, 2013
9.30am - noon Workshop 1 - Back to reality – a demonstration of a project on augmented reality with the University of Surrey – Marilyn Scott & Matthew Casey Workshop 2 - The entertaining museum. Integrated concepts for interactive exhibitions - Christian Rapp
2.00pm - 4.30pm Workshop3 - Using all senses – universal design and access planning for exhibition display - Doris Prenn Workshop 4 - Exhibitions – from dream to reality – a step by step guide to success - Stephen Feber
8.00pm Official dinner Sunday, December 15, 2013
3.00pm - 5.00pm Bahrain National Museum anniversary celebrations
Marwan Basmaji, PhD, director, Basmaji and Bielinska Architects, Jounieh, Lebanon
Didier Blin, architect, scenographer, France
Nadine Boksmati-Fattouh, PhD, museum advisor, Ministry of Culture, Bahrain
Mounir Bouchenaki, director, UNESCO ARC/WH, Bahrain
Matthew Casey, PhD, managing director, Pervasive Intelligence Ltd, UK
Gordon Davis, PhD, former advisor to the Bahrain National Museum, USA
Eric Delpont, director of the Arab World Institute Museum, Paris, France
Pamela Erskine-Loftus, PhD, New York, USA
Karen Exell, PhD, lecturer in museum studies at UCL Qatar, Doha
Rashad Faraj, director, Bahrain National Museum, Bahrain
Stephen Feber, PhD, director Stephen Feber Limited, Manchester, UK
uzy Hakimian, former director of the Beirut National Museum, curator of mim - the Mineral Museum Beirut, Lebanon
Bait Al Qur’an Worth a visit just to see the spectacular Arabic script-engraved building, but Bait Al Qur’an is also acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost Islamic museums. Established in 1990 by Abdul Latif Jassim Kanoo, it is part of a complex housing a mosque, library, auditorium, madrasa and the museum which holds a notable collection of Qur’anic manuscripts dating from the first Hijri century (622-722AD) to the present day sourced from across the Islamic world from China to Spain.
Much of the material is from Mr Kanoo’s own collection and items to look out for include the first copy of the Qur’an, written during the reign of Caliph Utham Ibn Affan, the oldest translated copy of the Qur’an – which was translated to Latin in 955AD – and surahs or chapters from the Holy Book engraved on grains, peas and rice dating back to 14th century Pakistan. Admission free. Open Sat-Wed 9am-noon, 4pm-6pm. Thu 9am-noon. Diplomatic Area (17 290 404).
Currency Museum Housed at the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA), the currency museum has ancient Arab, Islamic and Byzantine coins minted of gold and silver. The museum houses one of the nine rarest Islamic currency coins in the world and is particularly popular with currency collectors. Admission free. Open Sun-Thu 8am-2pm, closed Fri and public holidays. Central Bank of Bahrain, Diplomatic Area (17 547 700).
Oil Museum and the First Oil Well Also known as ‘Dar An-Naft’, the Oil Museum of The Bahrain Petroleum Company was set up in 1992 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of oil in the kingdom and is next to Discovery Well # 1, at the foot of Jebel Ad-Dukhan.
Not just a museum, it’s also an educational centre dedicated to the theme of oil, its search, discovery and development in Bahrain and its impact on the life of the Bahraini people.
The museum seeks to tell a story - that of Bahrain’s transformation from a ‘pearl state’ to an ‘oil state’. It also traces how a search for drinking water led to a search for oil, owing to a time-honoured Arab tradition-’a given word is written in stone’, in this case the word of the Late Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, given to a New Zealander, Major Frank Holmes.
‘Dar An-Naft’ houses an evocative picture gallery as well as a wealth of historic documents and maps, soil and rock samples and a working model of an oil well. Open Fridays 9am-5pm, Jebel Ad-Dukhan. Call (17 757 660).
Qal’at al Bahrain – Bahrain Fort Museum One of Bahrain’s two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Bahrain Fort sits atop an artificial hill built over more than 4,000 years of continual occupation.
The layers, developed over the centuries, have been uncovered in a series of digs during the last 50 years and tell a fascinating story of the development of life on the island. The fort houses a museum containing all manner of the unearthed relics which are brought to life in a video guide. The museum has a full programme of events over the coming months, see www.timeoutbahrain.com for further details. Admission free. Open daily fort 8am-6pm and museum 8am-8pm. Karbabad (fort 17 564 654, museum 17 567 171).
Stamps Museum A remarkable collection of all the stamps issued and used in Bahrain are on show in this display alongside notable issues from around the world. Admission free. Open Sat-Thu 8am-2pm. Transportation Ministry, King Faisal Highway, Diplomatic Area (17 523 403).