OXFORD, Nov 27 — More than 200 refugees and asylum seekers will be trained as tour guides at several Oxford museums over the next five years. This innovative initiative is part of the “Multaka” project, launched in 2015 in Germany.
This five-year training program recently received a £1 million (approximately RM5.7 million) grant from the Saudi charity, Alwaleed Philanthropies. This investment will enable the History of Science Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum to recruit, train and support a new team of 200 volunteers from across Oxfordshire.
These volunteers will lead tours and organise digital events to introduce the collections of these museums to the public, especially young people. In collaboration with museum staff, they will help develop exhibitions featuring objects from the Islamic world.
Princess Lamia Bint Majed Saud Al Saud, Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies, said that the “Multaka-Oxford” project promotes cross-cultural understanding between the Arab world and the UK. “This program, which opens its arms to refugees and helps to integrate them into the local community through the power of art and culture, plays a powerful role in strengthening cross-cultural understanding in society. Islamic art tells a story of our heritage, which can be often misunderstood, the ‘Multaka-Oxford’ program bridges these gaps and brings museum collections to life,” she said in a statement.
Around a hundred volunteer guides
This initiative is directly inspired by a similar program launched in 2015 by the Berlin State Museums and the Deutsches Historisches Museum. It offers Syrian and Iraqi migrants the opportunity to be trained as guides to offer tours in their native language.
“Through addressing visitors in clear and simple language aimed at all age groups and using peer-to-peer communication, the ‘Multaqa’ project hopes to facilitate refugee access to museums, and to help them to find social and cultural points of connection, as well as to increase their participation in the public sphere,” reads the project’s official website.
Inspired by this concept, the Oxford museums have partnered with local refugee community organizations to launch their own version of the training project. According to The Art Newspaper, the project has already worked with nearly 100 volunteer guides from countries such as Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Sudan at the History of Science Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum. — ETX Studio