In memory of Mariem Danial (Egypt, ITP 2017)

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

This week we heard the devastating news that we had lost a lovely and valued member of our International Training Programme (ITP) global network.

Mariem Danial joined us on the ITP in the summer of 2017 alongside 25 other museum and heritage professionals from 18 countries around the world.  At that time she was a curator at the wonderful Coptic Museum in Cairo.

Mariem (left) sat at a table holding a wooden object. She is looking up at a woman standing next to her and smiling.

At the British Museum, Mariem’s experience of creating activities for children and developing educational resources and learning strategies for visitors to engage the public in line with the ethos of the museum meant she was able to bring important, wide ranging professional experience to the ITP 2017.  Her passion for museums and the wider cultural sector was clear and her enthusiasm for the programme was infectious.

During her time at the Museum, Mariem worked with colleagues from the Department of Egypt and Sudan and took part in fruitful discussions about different museum aspects such as interpretation, design, documentation and storage.

Mariem sat at a table holding a ceramic bowl whilst wearing blue gloves. Another woman sits beside her, writing.

As part of the programme, our fellows take part in an exhibition project and Mariem’s proposal, working alongside Astghik Marabyan, Head of Cultural Heritage and Folk Arts at the Ministry of Culture – Armenia, Bridging Voice: Dia Al-Azzawi combined the traditional poems of the poet Mutanabbi with modern art.  The project clearly demonstrated Mariem’s knowledge, skills and experience but also her creativity, imagination and ability to work collaboratively.

Mariem stood smiling next to a table and wall display with paintings.

Mariem spent her UK partner museum placement with Norfolk Museums Service and it was wonderful to share new museum experiences with her as I had a pleasuring of joining her for part of the programme.  I remember Mariem being able to see a learning session involving costumed interpretation and lots of audience interaction that was linked to the literacy and numeracy syllabus at Time and Tide in Great Yarmouth. This visit had been arranged to coincide with the visit of more than 90 primary children from a school in the town and it was wonderful to be able to discuss and contrast learning experiences in the UK and Egypt.

Throughout the ITP Mariem was always happy to learn more as well as to generously share her skills and experiences with others.

Mariem (right) stood holding a piece of paper and presenting. A woman sits beside her to the left.

Professionally, Mariem was engaged and passionate.  Her dedication and enthusiasm shone through – particularly when she talked about learning programmes in museums and sharing the museum experience with the audiences she welcomed to the Coptic Museum.  She was a kind and generous colleague and friend, supporting and encouraging those around her during the programme.

For me, what struck me most about Mariem, was what a joyful person she was.  Being in London for six weeks, away from family and friends, can be quite a daunting experience but Mariem was delighted to mix and enjoy her time, both on the programme and socially.  I shared a lovely bus journey with her where she told me so much about her beloved family and we exchanged stories of life in Cairo and London. 

A man and a woman are stood with the backs to the camera, between the Mariem can be seen smiling.

Since hearing this sad news, I have been touched by the many messages and comments on social media celebrating Mariem as a scholar and a friend.  Her kindness and generosity clearly impacted on members of our alumni across the globe. 

We will miss Mariem enormously and are thinking of her family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.