Posted: 14th August 2020
Taking everything I’d learnt over the past year (2018-19 – see my previous post! https://humbermuseums.com/islamic-art-project-beginning-diary/ the time was right to explore developing a project with the Islamic Art collections at Hull and East Riding Museum.
Using the frameworks I’d been shown and Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, I started thinking about the approach I wanted to take. I wanted the project to place the community at the centre, engaging with a community we hadn’t worked with before. The aspiration was that the project would provide us with a different perspective on the collection and new insights – rather than pursuing further academic and curatorial views on the collection.
In plain speak – I wanted the project to engage with people who didn’t normally visit the museum. I wanted to find out their thoughts, opinions and emotions towards the objects. For them to feel like they also could take ownership of the collection, its culture and feel like they belong in the museum space.
So with this in mind, I needed to explore the local community and see if there were any communities who might find this collection relevant. The majority of the pottery collection was from Iran and Syria. Hull and East Riding Museum also have two 19th century helmets from the Persian Empire (centred on Iran too). So there was a clearly defined geographical location part of the collection centred on: Iran.
The Community Engagement report we’d received as part of the Islamic Art and Material Culture subject specialist network visit in 2017 had identified a local community group that we could approach: the Iranian Community of Hull. I got in touch with the organisation and arranged a meeting with one of their Directors and their Heritage Investigative Officer.
At this initial meeting in their offices, I took along images of the collection to show the different types of objects we have and breadth of where they were from. I’d also put some of the collection on display in Hull and East Riding Museum’s temporary display case so they could come by with their beneficiaries and take a closer look. In the meeting we not only discussed the collection and the museum’s objectives for the potential project – we also (more importantly) discussed their organisation. So how many members they had, their objectives, potential barriers as well as the kind of things that their beneficiaries would benefit from and enjoy doing.
After this meeting, I was enthused with ideas and different directions the project could go in. So I settled down at my desk and created some concepts that were mutually beneficial and in line with objectives for both organisations. I sent them through and eagerly waited for the Iranian Community of Hull’s advisory committee to peruse them and let me know which they preferred. Then I would be able to start creating a plan for the project.