Museums funding will help to connect refugees to their cultural heritage

Young refufee takes part in activity at the Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) and the Museum of the History of Science (MHS) have been successful in securing a major grant in support of a programme which will enable those affected by forced migration to play an important role through curation and public engagement with relevant collections. The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund has awarded £120,000 as part of its drive to fund collections development projects for social impact.

This collaborative project between the PRM and the MHS will create inclusive volunteering experiences for people from refugee communities to improve confidence, support community integration, and enhance the collections by developing multi-layered interpretation. Forced migrants, other volunteers and museum staff will work alongside each other in order to develop the role of community curators and guides, to learn from their different perspectives and to share their skills, knowledge and experiences.

Initially the project will focus on two collections: the PRM's textiles and costume collection, particularly textiles from the Arab world; and the unparalleled collection of astronomical instruments from the Islamic world at the MHS.

These collections are interesting to PRM and MHS visitors who want to learn more about textiles, early scientific instruments or the values and knowledge related to these objects. The PRM's unique textile collection from the Arab world contains items of exquisite technical skill and highlights themes of universal interest such as cultural dress, fashion, celebrations and rituals. The objects in the MHS collection are of great beauty and tell fascinating stories about their historical, social and scientific significance.

This project will bring these objects and their unique stories to life for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit these two museums each year, and the millions that learn about the collections through social media, the internet and online databases. This project will provide a different narrative on forced migration by looking at the rich culture and immense scientific contribution of communities that today are affected by war.

Dr Laura Van Broekhoven, Director of the PRM said: 'Connecting objects of cultural heritage from people's home countries that are cared for in museums can create a sense of belonging, offering a positive experience of inclusion as people establish new relationships, settle and make new homes.'

Dr Silke Ackermann, Director of the MHS added: 'It is fantastic that the two museums have been able to join forces on this important project. The collections have the potential to provide meaningful opportunities for people to use existing skills and develop new ones, whilst building confidence and taking ownership of their own heritage. We are hoping to create an intellectual home away from home in our museums.'

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