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As the London-based chair of the museum’s taskforce, Omar al-Qattan explains, Palestinians’ mass expulsion and exile since 1948 has presented the greatest challenge to conserving and exhibiting their heritage. “Their built up environment, as well as their cultural patrimony, was either destroyed or confiscated by the new state,” he says. “One must never underestimate the profound and decimating effect that forced exile and war have on a people – its memory, its customs, its oral history, its music and dance, its artisanal skill base. These are more vital than museum pieces and their destruction may quite fairly be termed as cultural genocide.”
Such questions are profoundly empowering: they remind us that we are not merely victims of history, but also, potentially, its agents. And so museums also, in this sense, end by offering hope. In our case, that the Palestinian people are still here, that at home and in exile we continue to make our voices heard and to gain support and solidarity, that our culture is celebrated the world over when a few decades ago it was denigrated and dismissed – surely all this means that the future belongs to us, not to those who seem determined to eliminate us.While the Palestinian Museum’s responsibility now is first and foremost to bear witness to the moral outrage of the Gaza War and honour its victims, it cannot neglect its more complex duty to analyse these events, to question them, and to seek eventually to make sense of how the catastrophe happened at all. We must wonder how it could have been prevented, and why it was not. To record the crimes of the past and present is essential, but to ask how a society can resist attempts to eliminate it, and how it may build an equitable and peaceful future for its citizens – that is surely the most arduous task confronting all cultural institutions serving a people threatened by genocide.
Continue reading at http://www.palmuseum.org/news-1/newsletter/17-lost-art-exhibitions