Reflections from London: OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury (ITP 2013)

Documentation of the British Museum’s Palestinian Textile Collection Fellowship: A Knowledge Sharing Project – International Training Programme & Department of the Middle East

Written by OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury, Birzeit University Museum (ITP 2013)

OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury

It is hard to believe it has been almost four months since the project to update the BM’s Palestinian textile records was launched. Initially intended to last for three months, the fellowship has been extended until mid-July 2018 due to the sheer size of the collection. To date I have worked on more than three hundred and fifty records. I have updated the description, names, measurements, provenance, materials and techniques of each object where necessary. I have been assisted by Holly Wright and Imogen Laing, Assistant Collections Managers at the British Museum, who have taken pictures of all the textiles I have been working on for the database.

Detail of Bethlehem Couching

Detail of Bethlehem couching

By examining and studying each garment, I have been able to further familiarise myself with Palestinian textiles, especially in terms of materials and techniques. Patterns are finally emerging and I can now see more of the regional nuances and particularities that I was not already familiar with. Working with objects that I have only read about or seen images of has been an invaluable experience. This has already opened up ideas for future curatorial and research projects that I am eager to explore and see to fruition.

Floss silk thread from Gaza

Floss silk thread from Gaza

Based on the use of the Museum’s record database (MuseumIndex+), the systematic approach to updating the record has allowed me to develop a more structured way of thinking when attempting to analyse, understand and describe each object. This will be very helpful when I begin to update the collection database at my home institution, Birzeit University Museum in Palestine. It will make the once daunting task of re-hauling our records system more manageable; something I am actually looking forward to.

During my stay in London I have been to several exhibitions and shows. The most remarkable by far was the Chelsea Flower Show, an annual garden and flower exhibition organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. This was nothing like I had seen before. I was struck by the attention to detail and quality of each plant on display, how every single sprout, patch of moss and shrub was carefully chosen and timed to look its best for the opening and duration of the show. It is one thing to choose inanimate objects for display; but this was altogether on another level!

This project is in partnership the British Council (occupied Palestinian territory) and the Palestine Exploration Fund, London.