Every year on May 18th, the world comes together to celebrate International Museum Day. This occasion serves as a reminder of the significance of museums as vital cultural institutions that preserve our heritage and connect us to our past. In Jordan, this day holds even greater importance as it showcases the remarkable efforts and achievements in capacity-building, awareness raising, and funding that have contributed to its vibrant museum landscape.
Since 2014 and through its many activities, the USAID-funded Sustainable Cultural Heritage Through Engagement of Local Communities Project (SCHEP), implemented by the American Center of Research (ACOR), has created ways to ensure that museum professionals receive training in the latest techniques and methodologies, to raise awareness among communities about the significance of cultural heritage, and to support the establishment and enhancement of museums across the country.
Capacity-building plays a crucial role in the enhancement of museum professionals’ skills and knowledge. In Jordan, notable initiatives have been undertaken to empower staff members of museums and visitor centers. A dozen individuals have received essential communication skills in English, fostering more effective communication with local and international visitors. Training programs in museum planning and design have equipped 16 professionals with the expertise to create engaging and immersive museum spaces. Furthermore, training in artifact handling, organization, display, and photography have honed the skills of 11 individuals, ensuring the preservation and presentation of artifacts to the highest standards.
Grants have also played a vital role in supporting various museum projects across Jordan. Several noteworthy initiatives have been funded to enrich the museum landscape here. One such example is the support offered to the Al Anbat Capital Society in Petra where they provided a comprehensive study for the establishment of a new museum dedicated to the biodiversity of Petra and southern Jordan. Also included is the work performed at the nearby Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth in Ghawr As Safi, where SCHEP supported training of local community members in the collection management, storage, and presentation of artifacts.
SCHEP partnered with the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum Project, which is associated with site development of Madaba Archaeological Park West, where the museum will be established through cleaning, excavation, maintenance, and consolidation work. The late 19th-century settlement level here has been given interpretive signage and prepared for its role as the ground floor of the proposed new museum. As part of this collaboration, SCHEP conducted many training sessions on museum management and collections management to improve the knowledge and skills of museum curators and local community members, to ensure that they will be able to administer the new museum in the future. The training included object handling, displays, data entry, and conservation. As part of this support, 12,000 archaeological objects currently in the Madaba museum and storerooms have been documented. The project provided advanced and customized courses in English communication skills and English for tourism for museums curators and professionals.
SCHEP supported the University of Jordan in the rehabilitation of the National Heritage Museum that is located on its campus in Amman. To assist in the preservation of the museum collections, the project developed the museum displays, expanded the exhibition spaces, and added more sections. Air conditioning and devices to control temperature and humidity were also installed to provide a suitable environment for the collections. SCHEP also supported the establishment of a digital database for the collections. The project produced promotional materials, such as, posters, brochures, and videos, and held an opening event, to publicize the completed project.
These improvements to the National Heritage Museum enhance students’ and community members’ knowledge about Jordan’s history. This included displays dedicated to Bedouin and rural life, jewelry, and traditional costumes, which assist students and researchers in their studies.
SCHEP supported the establishment of the Natural Science Museum at Al Hussein Bin Talal University’s College of Science. This created an educational tool for the university, targeting science students in particular but also including students of other disciplines. The museum will likewise be a destination for learning and discovery for the local community and students in the Ma’an Governorate.
Through SCHEP’s many activities, a remarkable 479 individuals actively participated in heritage awareness initiatives to expand their understanding of the significance of cultural preservation. Specific regions including Aqaba, Irbid, Karak, Ma’an, Madaba, Mafraq, and Tafila, attest to focused efforts in the promotion of heritage awareness in their communities.
International Museum Day serves as a platform to raise awareness about museums and heritage across Jordan and the world, which is essential for fostering a sense of pride and understanding among the public. Let us together embrace and uphold the role of museums as powerful agents of education, inspiration, and cultural preservation, and continue to support their growth and development for future generations to cherish and explore.