Beating Barriers with the ITP (Heba Khairy, ITP 2017, Egypt)

Written by Heba Khairy, Curator, Grand Egyptian Museum, ITP Fellow 2017

The first week of September was my very special week of beating barriers. The week started on September 3 at the British Museum where I met my dear Claire Messenger (ITP Manager). What a great feeling I had to return and meet again after one year this same great person at the same great place where I learnt, gained new experiences and built new friendships with great people from all over the globe on the ITP summer programme 2017. We sat together and talked about the latest developments in our personal and professional lives. Meeting and talking with Claire made my day!

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Back at the BM

Then I attended the conference Museums and digital memory: from creation and curation to digital preservation at the British Museum, this year’s annual conference held by the National Programmes team. The conference was a great opportunity to learn about the latest methods, approaches and techniques used by museums in UK to ensure the maximum benefit from applying digital preservation for museums’ collections, archives as well as tangible and intangible heritage. They spoke about the cultural and technological challenges they face, and how they are overcoming these challenges through advocacy, community engagement and workforce development. The conference shed light on the significant role of museums as ‘memory institutions’, as they assume a common aspiration in preserving, interpreting, organising and making available the cultural and intellectual records of their societies. The conference focused on the definition of the ‘digital museum object’, which offers an opportunity for museums to institute true and effective interpretation of their collection.

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National Programmes Conference 2018

The conference was also a great chance to meet again with very special and lovely friends. During the break, I met Ela Lehmann (Project Curator: Amara West) and we had our lunch together. As usual, Ela is totally in love with Asian food, so we ate Asian food and we had a long talk about our work, life and upcoming plans. We had a great time together and I was so happy to see Ela again after one year.

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With Ela in Russell Square

After the conference, I travelled to Swansea in Wales, as I was invited by CIPEG (the ICOM International Committee for Egyptology) to participate with my research paper in their annual conference, which was held at the Egypt Centre at Swansea University. The conference theme was Beating Barriers: overcoming obstacles to achievement. Barriers come in all shapes and sizes, and are not only physical. Museums may suffer from barriers to research, barriers to networking with other museums and institutions, barriers to developing their workforce, barriers to engaging with their audiences etc. I gave my research paper on Safeguarding and Interpreting Intangible Cultural Heritage in Egyptian Museums. I believe it’s time for providing new methods and practices to safeguard our living cultural heritage through our museums. We as museum professionals have to get out of our museums to attract and engage with communities. It’s time for everyone to be able to see their identity, traditions and expressions safeguarded inside the museum as well as their tangible heritage. Our role as museums and heritage professionals is to help and provide our institutions with plans and efforts to beat all kind of barriers which keep us from achieving our main missions and aims.

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Through my week in Swansea I had the opportunity to meet and make new friendships with great and inspiring people and Egyptology professionals from all over the world. I also had the opportunity with meet by chance with old friends, such as Dr Anna Garnett, the curator of Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at UCL, who has been involved with the ITP for many years.

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With Anna at the conference

The CIPEG conference gave me the chance to visit a good number of museums and heritage sites: the Egypt Centre team did a great job in organising our trips to different places within Swansea city and beyond.

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St Fagans National Museum of History

We visited Swansea Museum, and National Museum Wales sites National Waterfront Museum and St Fagans National Museum of History which I consider one of the best museums that I have ever visited. We went for a tour of Oystermouth Castle, where we stretched our legs with a long walk.

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Oystermouth Castle

We also enjoyed our trip to the Gower Coastal Path. I had heard from friends that it is considered one of the best coastlines in the UK, and I honestly believe that as well.

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Gower Coast

The British Museum and CIPEG conferences provided me with new ways to engage with museum and heritage professionals; a new platform for cooperation and exchanging ideas, projects, plans and dreams about our institutions and our heritage; and new approaches for developing my career and my academic life. This November I am looking forward to welcoming a group of professionals from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago to my museum, as we met at the CIPEG conference and they decided to visit my museum. I would like to thank the ITP and Claire for their support and for giving me this great chance to return back to the UK to attend and participate in such important conferences. The ITP will remain forever my best lifetime experience, and will always be my stepping stone to the positive and effective changes that have happened in my professional and academic life.

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