Continued Dutch Assistance to Yemeni Museums [Archives:1997/52/Culture]

December 29 1997

A three-member team of Dutch specialists recently visited Yemen to draw the necessary plans for modernizing the National Museum in Sanaa. The aim is to establish a modern museum in conformity with its social and technical environment. Also, the project will help with the training of personnel in management instruments and skills.
Anwar Al-Sayyadi and Nayif Al-Saqqaf of Yemen Times met the Dutch team and filed the following interviews. Excerpts: 1. Mr. Alex Scholten, Arba Minch’s Managing Director.
Q: What is the purpose of your visit? A: We are here to upgrade the Sana’a National Museum. The project is twofold: to upgrade the interior design of the museum, and to upgrade the management skills of the museum staff.
Q: How was your company chosen for this project? A: As the Dutch government is funding the project, the European laws stipulate that such an assignment be done through a European tender. Total Design, as the main contractor, asked Arba Minch to join them to do this tender together. The Dutch government in cooperation with our embassy in Yemen and the National Museum made the tender document. We then prepared a proposal for this tender. I personally came to Yemen and talked to a lot of people to really know what they want.
Q: Have you done any survey of other Yemeni museums? A: No, the time was very short. From getting the tender document and subscribing for the tender we only had 3 weeks. So we really had to make our plan in Holland.
Q: In our opinion, what does this museum need? A: As we have been here for only one week, it would be ridiculous to say that we have seen everything and know what is needed. We have done a lot of studying with Mr. Abdulaziz Al-Jindary (Director-General of the Sanaa National Museum) and his colleagues. We have met a lot of people to get a better idea of the situation in the museum and what is going to happen to the other museums.
Q: Who is funding this project and how much does it cost? A: The Dutch government budget for the project is $2.5 million. As I said in the tender document, we can do everything as stated. Later on in the project, we are going to see if there is a sponsor who will support the project in cash or in kind. This can be an international effort and all can contribute in a positive way to the project.
Q: Are you planning to establish a new museum or improve the existing one? A: We are still at the planning stage at the moment. We will see what we can be done within the allocated budget. We would like to do a lot of things, but we have to take the budget into consideration. As it stands now, the budget is not enough to build a new building. We will work hard to see if we can get any extra funding.
Q: In your mind, is it better to build a new museum at the archeological sites or in the cities? A: The Director of Antiquities and the Minister of Culture asked us to do the project for Sana’a museum only. But as the Dutch government specially donated the money to design a museum, we are thinking very hard about how we can incorporate the other museums in this project. As for management development, there are some possibilities for museum directors or important staff members to go for training in museums. Let us cooperate in trying to raise the level of all museums in Yemen.
2. Ms. Joke Kievit is a Senior Consultant at Arba Minch.
Q: Is this the first time you are visiting Yemen? A: Yes, but there was a very nice exhibition about 7 years ago in Holland about Yemen. I have been there and I have seen it. It was really great.
Q: How is the Antiquities Authority interacting with the project? A: I was at Professor Yousuf Abdulah’s office this morning and he promised us as much as he can to help us. He also instructed his colleagues to help us implement the project. So we are very pleased because it means every body here has the same goal to get a good museum.
Q: When will you start implementing the project? A: This is the first mission. We are finalizing our plans for next year. We have to return to Holland. We will return after Ramadhan to hold more discussions with the museum officials on how the program is going to be. If there is agreement, then we have to make our final plan for the Dutch Embassy. Then we can start.
Q: Would you like to tell our readers anything else? A: This is my first time in Yemen and I spent most of it in Sana’a. I found that not only does it have beautiful buildings, but also very friendly people. In the museum, I have seen that everybody communicated well with me, , although I do not speak the Arabic language. I am sure we will work well together. I come here as a consultant, not as an expert or a teacher. I’ll consult with the Yemeni people, and together we’ll make this small part of the world a better place for everybody.
3. Ms. Martina Meis, Project Designer: Q: How many people visit the museum in Sanaa, according to your information? A: I heard that there are a lot of people who visit museums in Yemen. As far as I know, the number is about 10 thousand a year, which is very large. I think here in Yemen people are very interested in cultural things and I hope we can do a good project so the people understand the nice things of their history, their heritage, and also the modern things in Yemen.
Q: How do you see the importance of this project? A: I think it is going to be very useful for Yemen, and we are all very enthusiastic.
4. Mr. Abdulaziz Hamood Al-Jindari is the Director of the National Museum in Sanaa. Q: What is the role of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in this effort? A: The National Museum is part of the General Authority of Antiquities which is part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. We are responsible for all cultural activities in Yemen.
Q: Could you tell us a little about the beginnings of this project? A: The Dutch delegation came to Yemen to set up the Yemen Holland project for improving the National Museum Institute in Sana’a. In fact, this project began in the late 1970s when it started in the old museum. Then, with the discovery of more ancient artifacts, we had to open another building in 1987, again with Dutch support. The present delegation came to continue the effort.
Q: Is this the first effort to plan the new National Museum program? A: This delegation came for the first time but it is part of a continuatual effort. Dutch aid conditions require that a project be bid on by at least two firms. The one which makes the best offer wins the contract. This company actually took over the tender bid from the company which started the work in the 70s. So it undertook to continue the work here. The project aims to do renovations, install audio-visual equipment, make new electrical and alarm grids i.e., other work and equipment which the museum needs.
Q: What is the estimated cost of this project? A: The previous team estimated the cost at 10 million Dutch guilders. However, the Dutch government decided to cut the amount down to half due to its special economic circumstances. The Ministry of Planning and Development has agreed to cover the necessary shortfall in the cost of the project.
Q: Any last comments? A: This museum reflects the history of Yemen. A visitor to the museum can get some idea about the Yemeni civilizations, before and after Islam, without having to visit the historical places. This is what the National Museum offers. Every ancient piece in the museum represents part of the history of our civilization. I call on every Yemeni to care for Yemen’s ancient monuments and to protect them against smuggling and destruction.