'Fishing Together'... Building Partnerships with Museums in Afghanistan


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This presentation has been prepared for the Canadian Museums Association 2013 Conference in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada), and presented on 30 May 2013. Next to addressing the varied setting of Afghanistan's complex cultural stratigraphy, it describes a few case studies of successful and not-so-successful endeavours in the area, stressing the need of an extreme flexibility in setting up a cooperation between museum professionals. This flexibility shoul not be just confined to the tools we choose, but should also englobe our values, strategies, and priorities. In this way, we'll be able to break the dichotomy of "giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day" or "teaching a man to fish and feed him for a life": going out to fish together for a while, each one will come back enriched from the interaction.

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'Fishing Together'... Building Partnerships with Museums in Afghanistan

  1. 1. CMA Conference 2013Whitehorse, Yukon, 27 May – 1 June 2013“Fishing Together” – Building Partnershipswith Museums in AfghanistanAlessandro Califano
  2. 2. Afghanistan, a Geographic Hub 1/3A hub between East and West, and North andSouth, Afghanistan shows human settlementsgoing as far back as 100,000 years ago, withearliest Palaeolithic tools found near Ghazni, inDasht-e Nawar.The first images of Afghan people can be foundin a relief along the stairs leading up to thegreat audience hall of the palace of king DariusI, in Persepolis.
  3. 3. Afghanistan, a Geographic Hub 2/3ARACHOSIANS (Persepolis, Audience Hall – 6thcentury BCE)
  4. 4. Afghanistan, a Geographic Hub 3/3Different merchandises, religions, and culturestravelled and linked together theMediterranean, the Ural-Altaic area, the IndianSubcontinent, China, the Iranian plateau, andthe Arabic peninsula.Zoroastrianism (Balkh), Buddhism (Bactria,Bamiyan, Ghazni), Hinduism, Shamanism andPolytheism (Kafiristan, now Nuristan), andIslam (from the 7th century onwards) have allbuilt a rich stratigraphy of many cultural layers.
  5. 5. Cultural Stratigraphy 1/7Noh Gonbad mosque, Balkh (9th century)
  6. 6. Cultural Stratigraphy 2/7Balkh citadel (26th century BCE to 18th century)
  7. 7. Cultural Stratigraphy 3/7Blue Mosque, Mazar-e Sharif (15th century), withManuscripts Museum
  8. 8. Cultural Stratigraphy 4/7Buddhist monks cells, Samangan (4th-5th century)
  9. 9. Cultural Stratigraphy 5/7Durga head (4th century), Tepe Sardar (Ghazni),now at the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul
  10. 10. Cultural Stratigraphy 6/7Man on horse (end 18th century), Kati people, Nuristan,now at the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul
  11. 11. Cultural Stratigraphy 7/7“Tjumen 82” graffiti (in Russian), scratched on dome ofkings Summer Palace in Tashqurgan, Afghanistan
  12. 12. Planning “Differently”Cooperating in radically different cultural heritagecontexts requires much more than developingnew strategies for different storytelling needs.It requires from us to deeply rethink what we takefor granted in planning, including our tools andour very priorities.
  13. 13. Alternative Fire Fighting Measures(Murad Khane, Kabul)Ensuring an effective security systems against firerisks where reliable water / power sources may not –or not always – be readily available.
  14. 14. Energy Saving MeasuresWith the substitution of neon and incandescencelights with LEDs we achieved over 90% of energysaving, while both heat and lux affecting the artefactswere very effectively kept under control (NationalMuseum of Afghanistan, 2010).
  15. 15. Different Planning Options 1/2Motorway police emergency helpline inPakistanProprietary software solutions proposed:• $ 60K US / year• $ 400K US up front + annual SW renewalcost + additional costs if number of linesneeds to be increasedOpen Source solution, developed by localengineers from scratch:• 3 million rupees ($ 33K US) one time cost
  16. 16. Different Planning Options 2/2National Museum of Afghanistan$ 10 M US provided by foreign donors (2012)Expected achievements:• New wall and guard towers (doesnt lookmuch like an “inclusive museum” project...)• Museum collections database from scratch(over 70% of it already existing...)What could have been done, instead?• New adequate storage areas• New facilities for visitors, employees• Training, completion of existing database, ...
  17. 17. “Give a man a fish to feed him for a day”“Teach a man to fish and feed him for alifetime”Fish together...…and both of you will havea completely new experience,enriching both of youFlexibility as the Paramount Factor forPlanning in Critical Contexts
  18. 18. For further reading...A. Califano, Afghanistans Cultural Heritage –Continuity in Change (2008) *A. Califano, Archaeology – Hidden Stupa, BuddhistMonastery in Samangan, Afghanistan (2010) *A. Califano, 3000 Years of History. An Exhibition atthe National Museum of Afghanistan. In: MUSE. vol.XXIX/1, January-February 2011, pp.34-41A. Califano, Museums in Afghanistan – A Roadmapinto the Future (in: The Silk Road, vol.9/2011, pp.88-103)* see: www.slideshare.net/califano
  19. 19. Thank you! Merci ! ...Tashakor!“A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive”National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul