The Center has great ambitions and plans for the future. This is evident in our vision for the establishment of the “Story of a People” Museum. This museum would be the only one of its kind not only in Palestine but throughout the entire Middle East. It will present Palestinian history in five stages using historical artifacts as well as the latest technologies, including 3-D movies and modern audio technologies that will create an all-sensory experience for the visitor. The vision for this museum is to become a leading Palestinian institution that documents crucial moments in Palestinian history, demonstrating how the past has shaped our present.
We have already received a great deal of support for this project. We have been given financial support ($110,000) from the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad which we have used to complete the initial stages of planning and infrastructure, including a projected budget and the production of a “virtual tour” of the museum (on DVD) showing how it will appear once it is completed.
We hope to broaden the perspectives of both camp visitors and its residents, challenging their understanding of themselves, their own history and their journey through the wider world. Moments of modern Palestinian history will be captured and recreated in order to give visitors a more intimate understanding of the day-to-day realities that shape refugees’ lives. The museum will depict the unique circumstances of Palestinian refugees through their long journey of displacement, wandering and waiting.
The museum will also have a gift shop that will sell hand-made embroidery products and other art work created by the women of the camp, allowing them to generate additional income for their families. The various facets of the museum will help to provide an important source of income for the local community, creating about 30 permanent jobs and an additional 100 temporary jobs. Furthermore, in addition to the permanent exhibition there will be space for temporary art installations and cultural exhibitions produced by contemporary Palestinian artists.
We hope that the museum will become a landmark tourist destination, one that increases both local and international awareness of the suffering experienced by Palestinian refugees. It will inspire life-long learning, expand knowledge of our experience and strengthen our communities.
Why a museum?
Traditionally, Palestinians have relied on an oral, narrative history passed down from one generation to another. Only recently have Palestinians begun to think about documenting their history and displaying it through museums. Consequently, there are very few of these types of exhibits anywhere. Throughout the “Diaspora” (the scattering of Palestinians after the Nakba of 1948), many so-called museums are merely temporary show rooms with very few original documents or artifacts, and they typically focus only on one narrow topic. The main reason for this lack of more comprehensive exhibitions is the chaos and confusion created by the 1948 and 1967 wars with the resulting displacement of Palestinians’ from their original homes. War and forced displacement have led to the disappearance and/or destruction of many historical documents and archives. The 1982 Lebanon War is a flagrant example, where the exile of the PLO from Lebanon resulted in the loss of irreplaceable archival material collected over many years by this key Palestinian organization.
Aida Youth Center has become known for its creative cultural projects that reinforce a sense a Palestinian cultural identity among our young people (with projects such as the ‘Key of Return’, an embroidery project and a traditional folk-dance [Dabka] group). The museum will act as an educational center for both our camp community as well as our visitors. We especially hope that it will encourage historical understanding and bridge the gap between the past and our present, for both our camp’s young people as well as our visitors.
If you represent an organization that would be interested in partnering with us on this museum project, please contact us.