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Zulkifli Ishak

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

Senior Curator

Country: Malaysia

ITP Year: 2017


Zulkifli is a Senior Curator at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) and has served with the museum since year 2008. His role as a curator is to conduct research and disseminate knowledge, information, and legacies of the collection of Islamic arts and artefacts through various methods, such as exhibitions, displays, publications, lectures, consultations and training. Since its opening in 1998 the museum’s collection has increased tremendously, and after two decades of its establishment the private museum has managed to gather a collection of thousands of artefacts and objects.

Zulkifli graduated with a bachelor’s degree and postgraduate MA in History & Civilisation. His thesis study was Medieval European travel literature concerning its understanding, perception and imagination on the Malay world. His academic interests include the field of Malay world manuscripts. He is also a certified translator from Malaysian National Institute of Translation.

Zulkifli’s dream for museums of the future, is to embrace the idea of ‘universal museums’ that represent the voices of marginalised groups and consider those in the museum offering, such as exhibitions, displays, and publications.

At the British Museum
During his time on the International Training Programme 2017, Zulkifli was based in the Middle East Department and spent his partner placement at Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives.

In 2017 participants were asked to develop a proposal for an Asahi Shimbun Display – a temporary exhibition in Room 3 at the British Museum – based around a ‘spotlight’ object. Zulkifli worked with fellow Norhan Hassan Salem (Egypt) on his exhibition proposal project, entitled Royal Headgear: Symbolism, Protection and Kingship.

He extended his stay at the Middle East Department for some weeks after the ITP to conduct research on Islamic helmets from the British Museum’s collection.

Legacy Projects
In October 2019 Zulkifli participated in the ITP MA Conference programme in Brighton. With fellows from Egypt, India, Nepal and China, Zulkifli attended a programme structured around the 3-day MA Conference on Sustainable and Ethical Museums in a Globalised World.

ITP Newsletter Publications
ITP Newsletter Issue 5 (2018), Did you know that? Museum of arts, house of knowledge: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
ITP Newsletter Issue 5 (2018), Learning and engagement: Immersion of Islamic Arts 2018: a learning and engagement programme at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
ITP Newsletter Issue 5 (2018), Your collection in focus: Tumbuk lada
ITP Newsletter Issue 6 (2019), Connectivity in the 21st century: making collections accessible, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia digital collections: working in partnership
ITP Newsletter Issue 6 (2019), Your collection in focus: A Malay manuscript on travel
ITP Newsletter Issue 7 (2020), Your collection in focus: A Malay keris from the collection of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
ITP Newsletter Issue 8 (2021) Facing the pandemic at the Islamic Arts Museum, Malaysia

Continued Dialogue
Zulkifli is now part of the Reimagining the British Museum International Working Group (IWG) which has invited international museum and cultural heritage experts to collaborate with the Museum and support the development of outline briefs for new suites of permanent galleries at the British Museum through online monthly meetings and workshops in London.