icom-icee-logoAs you may have noticed, Qatar has a growing interest in art. The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art will soon be joined by the National Museum of Qatar, not to mention all the art galleries in the country. And so, it is very fitting that Doha now celebrates International Museum Day.

MIA cafe

Qatar Museums Authority is now a member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), which established International Museum Day in 1977, to increase public awareness of the role of museums in a society’s development. This year’s theme is ‘Museums in a Changing World. New Challenges, New Inspiration’ and four international speakers participated in the event, ICOM President, Dr Hans-martin Hinz, President of ICOM Europe, Damodar Frlan, Director of Nubian Museum in Aswan, Ossama Abdel Meguid and Curator of the Museum of Carthage in Tunisia, Chedlia Annabi.

Museum of Carthage in Tunisia

They talked about the role of museums in society, how it can shape development as only by understanding the past can you fully comprehend the future’s potential. How to recognise institutions in the MENA region as the field is becoming increasingly fluid was a bit of a point of contention between the panel and the audience, as the latter were in favour of pop-up enterprises calling themselves ‘museums’ and the latter weren’t. The question of how to develop a museum culture in a country where there is not a precedent came up as well.

These kind of questions and arguments are exactly what International Museum Day is about; a platform for cultural exchange and to question what exactly museums are all about.