Institute of Archaeology


Keys of the Past: Keys to the Future

The Palestinian National Museum Policy (PNMP) document was commissioned by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) with the assistance of UNESCO. The brief was to develop a framework for the creation of museums in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Sally MacDonald, then Director of UCL Museums and Collections and Beverley Butler, took up the role of consultants.

Recognition is made in the PNMP regarding the 'vital' need 'to consolidate Palestine's inheritance', then, this includes 'the wealth of collections kept in government museums and stores, universities and private homes and in collections abroad' but also 'perhaps most importantly it includes the people who are caring for this heritage (whether professionally trained or not) their commitment & dedication often in the face of great hardship' (PNMP 2008). Having such 'representative voices' proved of key importance to the PNMP and it is clearly stated that, 'the development of this policy will depend very much on Palestine's cultural activists, teachers, researchers, historians, scientists, & archaeologists, who can potentially act as powerful facilitators'. It is further explained that, 'this [document] entails a joint work, in consultation with locals and experts, to define the principles to guide the policy draft as well as to initiate pilot activities for the implementation of donor-funded projects' (ibid).

This aspect of developing the PNMP that centred around visits being made to such 'parties' in September 2007 and culminated in the organization of a group workshop in December 2007. At the latter occasion, held at Ramallah Museum, an outline version of policy was produced to prompt discussion at the workshop, and was attended by 16 persons while the policy was commented on by numerous others.

Thus the visits, for example, to individual collectors, to private heritage initiatives confirmed these to be a valuable and key part of the vibrant and committed heritage context of 'archive fever'. It was this aspect of encountering and understanding the variety of 'stakeholder' or 'interest groups' - or better still 'actor-networks' - within the Palestinian context that proved crucial in eliciting both orthodox and alternative perspectives.

Related outputs

  • Consultancy Paper:
    Butler, B and MacDonald, S, 2008, Keys to the Past, Keys to the Future: Developing a National Policy for Museums in Palestine. Consultancy paper commissioned by Palestinian National Authority/ UNESCO.
  • Workshop Meeting in Ramallah, Dec 2007.
  • Chapter in Journal:
    Butler, B. 2011, 'Keys to the Past, Keys to the Future': An analysis of the development of a National Policy for Museums in Palestine, in [eds] B. Hole et al, Present Pasts.