UAE and prestigious Smithsonian Institution agree to closer co-operation

UAE museum directors, curators, archivists set to collaborate with their peers at the world's largest museum and research facility

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The UAE has signed a landmark deal with the prestigious Smithsonian Institution that will boost the country's rapidly developing art scene.

The agreement identifies multiple areas for future collaboration between the UAE and one of the world's largest museum and research facilities.

UAE museum directors, curators, archivists and researchers will work with their peers at the Smithsonian to identify opportunities to co-host events, conduct research, develop curatorial or exhibition partnerships and publish academic articles. Training, internships and fellowships will also be provided.

“The UAE’s museum and cultural sector is growing at a rapid pace and new efforts are also under way to preserve the country’s heritage and discover new knowledge," said UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba, who signed the memorandum of understanding with Smithsonian secretary David J Skorton recently.

"As these sectors develop, it is critical for UAE organisations to work with best-in-class partners that can share insights and best practices. No other organisation has the experience or breadth of expertise that the Smithsonian has and we are thrilled to help launch this new initiative,” said Mr Al Otaiba.


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The development of new science, technology, engineering and maths progammes here (also known as Stem) using Smithsonian curriculum and resources are also included in the agreement.

The UAE and Smithsonian have a history of collaboration in research, conservation and arts. Last year, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute worked with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi to reintroduce a herd of scimitar-horned oryx into the wild. The species had been extinct in the wild since the mid-1980s. Smithsonian conservationists, researchers and curators have also exchanged information on training and museum development with cultural organisations here. This includes recent briefings with the  Zayed National Museum, which will be built on Saadiyat Island.

“This MOU creates new opportunities for the Smithsonian and the UAE Embassy to partner on a variety of initiatives, events and other programs,” said Mr Skorton. “Through our current collaborations - and those we will create in the future - we will build greater connections between our societies.”

The agreement follows a visit by a Smithsonian delegation to identify new ways to highlight cultural innovation and artists from the UAE and promote cultural exchange between the two nations.

With the opening of world-class museums, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the UAE has become a centre for the arts in the Middle East.

“Art connects people across borders and cultures," said Mr Al Otaiba.

“Through this agreement, we will be able to ... showcase rising stars from the UAE in the United States.”

The Smithsonian was founded in 1846 and consists of 19 museums, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There were 30 million visits to the Smithsonian in 2016.