zayed national museum to be developed with expertise of the british museum

Published July 25th, 2009 - 08:51 GMT

Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), the developer of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District, today announced an agreement with the British Museum to provide expert advice and counsel on the development of the Zayed National Museum. The British Museum will serve as a consulting partner to the Zayed National Museum’s operating body and will advise on a full range of issues, from design, construction and museography to educational and curatorial programming as well as training. The Museum is scheduled to open in 2012/2013 as the cornerstone project in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, planned to be the largest concentration of premier cultural institutions in the world.

The 12,000 square metre (130,000 square foot) Museum will recall the life and values of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004), the late Founder and President of the United Arab Emirates. An international statesman and award-winning pioneer of environmental conservation, Sheikh Zayed forged a federated nation out of seven independent Emirates and led this new state into peaceful engagement with the modern world, while strengthening his people’s respect for their centuries-old heritage.

A unique institution, conceived as a place for discussion, learning and inspiration for the entire Arab region, the Zayed National Museum will feature the story of Sheikh Zayed to explore the history and culture of the UAE, and the story of the UAE to illuminate life throughout the Middle East.

The Zayed National Museum will carry out this mission in part through a schedule of temporary exhibitions but primarily through an ensemble of permanent galleries in which visitors will be introduced to five themes of Environment, Heritage, Unity, Education and Humanitarianism.

• Environment: Sheikh Zayed’s interest in protecting the environment will establish the key questions addressed in this theme. It will explore the physical landscapes, flora and fauna, and mineral resources of the UAE and the wider Middle East. It will be shown how humans have interacted with and shaped the environment, and how resources have been exploited to make products that have been traded across the region.

• Heritage: Sheikh Zayed was born into Abu Dhabi society before it had been modernised, but he held traditional values close to his heart throughout his life. This pavilion will feature the pre-modern communities in the desert and on the coast, and examine particular aspects such as life around the oasis and pearl fishing. These are contrasted with traditional lifestyles elsewhere in the Middle East.

• Unity: Sheikh Zayed’s role in uniting the Emirates allows an investigation of this accomplishment in the context of other forms of political and social unification known from the archaeology and history of the Middle East. Displays will use objects from across the region to explore political and cultural unity from the Sumerians to modern times.
• Education: By establishing education for all in the UAE, Sheikh Zayed was building on a seven thousand year old Middle Eastern tradition, perhaps the region’s greatest legacy to the modern world. The first writing, cuneiform, was developed in southern Iraq and Iran and spread to other areas of the Middle East. Islamic learning preserved and developed ancient knowledge – Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek – passing it to the West.

• Humanitarianism: Sheikh Zayed’s belief in and support of Islamic values and religious tolerance is central to understanding the modern UAE. An examination of regional faiths at the time of the Prophet Muhammad provides the background to the core of the exhibition. This explores the revelation of Islam and the breadth of Islamic art and culture in the Middle East and the wider world. The gallery will conclude with an exploration of Sheikh Zayed’s humanitarian works across the globe.

The architectural design of the Museum is by Foster + Partners, London, under the leadership of Norman Foster. An unveiling of the design will be held in Abu Dhabi later in 2009.

“In developing this project, which is so significant not only for us but for the entire Middle East, we could have no better advisor than the British Museum,” stated His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of TDIC and of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage. “This great and historic institution, known for its unsurpassed expertise in every field and its profound respect for every culture, will help us make the Zayed National Museum a place of inspiration and pride for Emiratis, a beacon for the people of our region, and a source of information and understanding for our visitors from around the world.”

“We warmly welcome this opportunity to work with TDIC on a project of profound significance to the people of Abu Dhabi and the UAE and of extraordinary interest to the international community,” stated Neil MacGregor, Director of The British Museum. “The British Museum has gained hugely through the reciprocal relationships it has formalised in recent years with cultural organisations and governments worldwide. We look forward to forging productive new friendships, and gaining new perspectives on our own collection, through this partnership with TDIC.”

About The British Museum

The British Museum was established in 1753 by Act of Parliament and opened to the public in 1759. Governed by a body of Trustees, the Museum was from its beginnings a new type of institution, with its collections belonging to the nation and freely accessible to all. The British Museum today is a museum of the world and for the world, holding a collection of seven million objects—one of the finest in existence—spanning two million years of human history. The British Museum aims to reach a broader worldwide audience by extending engagement not only with these collections but with the cultures and territories that they represent, the stories that can be told through them, the diversity of truths that they can unlock and their meaning in the world today.

About Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC)

Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) is a master developer of major tourism destinations in Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates, and a key contributor to its economic and cultural progress.

The company is behind some of Abu Dhabi’s most prestigious projects including two major destinations. Saadiyat Island will house the world's largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions including the Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and maritime museum. Meanwhile, Desert Islands will be one of the world’s largest environmentally sustainable island tourism destinations.

By creating investment partnerships and joint ventures, TDIC’s developments are supporting Abu Dhabi’s evolution into a world class destination for tourists, businesses and residents and helping to realise the emirate’s considerable tourism potential and strategic goal of delivering 2.7 million hotel guests a year by 2012.

Established in April 2006, TDIC has already built a strong reputation among international industry players for its compelling value proposition, transparency of business approach and ability to deliver. Locally, TDIC offers significant employment and vocational training opportunities for Emiratis keen to enhance their careers and professional qualifications.

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About Saadiyat Island

Saadiyat Island is a natural island alongside Abu Dhabi’s coast, celebrating the renaissance of Arabian living; and a place where iconic landmarks and azure Arabian waters create a thoughtful harmony of culture, leisure and business in a vibrant community.

It covers 27 square kilometres, and will be completed in phases up until 2018.  Over 160,000 people are expected to live on the island upon completion.

The island is made up of seven districts: Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Marina, Saadiyat Beach, Saadiyat Promenade, Saadiyat Lagoons, Saadiyat Reserve and Saadiyat Retreat.

Saadiyat Island will host premium brands in hospitality, education and leisure, combined with the world’s largest concentration of cultural institutions, all within easy reach. There are plans for luxury hotels, over three million square metres of office space, marinas with berths for 1,000 boats, two championship golf courses, civic and leisure facilities, sea-view apartments and elite villas.

Saadiyat Island is being developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), an independent company of which Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) is the sole shareholder.


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