Apr 16 2013

New Palestinian Museum Lays Foundation

by Isabella Ellaheh Hughes

A rendering of The Palestinian Museum, which will open in late 2014. Courtesy Heneghan Peng Architects and The Palestinian Museum.

The new Palestinian Museum broke ground last week in the hills of Birzeit (14 kilometers north of Ramallah). Slated to open its doors in late 2014, the museum is designed by Dublin-based architectural firm Heneghan Peng and will be devoted to understanding the past 200 years of Palestinian history and culture.

The project in the Palestinian Territories represents the largest effort of its kind in terms of both space and finances. The Welfare Association, an independent not-for-profit organization aiding Palestinians since 1983, has made the USD 15 million-dollar museum its flagship. 

Along with new galleries, phase one of the 3,000 square meter building includes space for a cafeteria, classrooms, staff offices and a gift shop. The second phase, which is hoped to be completed within the next decade, will expand the site to nearly 9,500 square meters.

In addition to hosting exhibitions, the museum will serve as a center for research and will partner with local grassroots organizations. A digital platform that will form a major part of programming is also in the works.

At a reception hosted by Art Dubai last month, the founding team of The Palestinian Museum presented their plans for the forthcoming institution. Head curator and director Jack Persekian said it was “a safe place for unsafe ideas.” He described it as transgressive in nature, adding that it would “not [be] confined by borders, barriers and geopolitics.” 

Omar al-Qattan, chairman of the project’s task force, further emphasized the role of the museum as a place for “continual conversation about the most important issues facing us today . . . [one] that focuses on the present, history and future of Palestine.”