Documentation of the British Museum’s Palestinian Textile Collection (OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury, ITP 2013)

Documentation of the British Museum’s Palestinian Textile Collection
A Knowledge Exchange Fellowship with ITP Fellow OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury/Birzeit University Museum, Palestine

The British Museum’s Palestinian textile collection constitutes one of the largest textile collections at the Museum, with over 1000 pieces, and is one the largest and most extensive in the world. The BM’s collection is unique in so far as it contains men’s, women’s and children’s dress (garments, hats, headdresses and face covers), cosmetic pouches and soft furnishings that roughly cover the period over the last 150 years. Most significantly, it contains day-to-day dress of both genders that is often missing in other notable collections.


As part of a knowledge-exchange fellowship, OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury (ITP 2013) is now at the BM, based mainly at Blythe House where he is working on the Palestine collection until June 2018. Under the guidance and supervision of Fahmida Suleman, Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East; Helen Wolfe, Collections Manager of Textiles; Imogen Laing, Assistant Collections Manager of Textiles and Tanya Szrajber, Head of Documentation, OmarJoseph’s primary aim is to update the collections database with missing documentation for all relevant objects. OmarJoseph is currently working with Holly Wright, from the Department of the Middle East, on photographing the collection to ensure its digitisation and publication online.

OmarJoseph is affiliated with the Birzeit University Museum in Palestine, where he has curated exhibitions on Palestinian Costume and Talismans. Birzeit University Museum has a collection of around 200 Palestinian garments and accessories dating back 70–100 years and the dress collections are almost exclusively comprised of special occasion female garments. One of the aims of this project is to foster a collaborative relationship between the BM (particularly the ITP and the Department of the Middle East) and Birzeit University Museum.


Since his arrival at the beginning of March, OmarJoseph has met with Abiti Nelson (ITP 2013) and Chithra Kallur (ITP 2017), who were in London for a week as they attended and took part in the Exhibiting the Experience of Empire symposium at the British Museum. He has also taken part in a five-day formal intensive textile training programme (best practice in registration, storage, display and packing), taught by Helen Wolfe and Imogen Laing at Blythe House.

This project is in partnership with the British Council (Occupied Palestinian Territories) and the Palestine Exploration Fund.