Learning from Multicultural Amman: Engaging Jordan's Youth

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Archaeology

Abstract

Communities and especially the younger generation in Jordan are poorly engaged with their multicultural heritage, both in formal education and at touristic heritage sites and museums which do much for the Jordanian economy but little for its social development.

Our project is designed to tackle this challenge, by training museum staff, teachers and university lecturers to take advantage of the rich educational resources of Jordanian museums, and to consequently create better opportunities for their pupils and students to value Jordan's rich past.

Some key principles underpin our mission: undertaking our research in a rigorous, critical and ethical manner; working with the past for the benefit of present-day and future generations of Jordanians; celebrating the multicultural heritage of Jordan's diverse communities; highlighting the educational value of museums and their collections; identifying, sharing and adapting best professional practice for the Jordanian museum and education sectors; creating and working in new partnerships that connect not only some of the best scholars and heritage professionals in the UK and Jordan, but also museums, schools and universities, for mutual benefit; and persuading influential policy makers that, by adopting these transformative principles, museums and their users can make a positive and lasting difference to Jordan's economy, culture and society.

We do not yet have all the answers. Despite over 40 years of academic and professional research and debate over community engagement in heritage globally, we still need to understand much more about the Jordanian museum situation, including the professional and social barriers to fully exploiting their educational potential. We also need to find out - by systematically asking and listening to people in the heritage and education sectors - what developmental changes might work best in the Jordanian context. We are certain that high quality training of our collaborating museum staff and educators will make a difference. But we also want to experiment as a team with new ways of teaching and learning in museums, to figure out what approaches work best, both for teachers and for young learners. Ultimately, we want to pass on what we have learnt to other stakeholders, ranging from decision makers in Jordan to scholars and museum professionals globally.

Planned Impact

This project is fundamentally about working with partners, stakeholders and decision-makers to achieve a step change in educational provision in Jordanian museums, particularly for the benefit of young people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Our consortium and project have come together from foundations in existing relationships; galvanised by the AHRC-funded scoping workshop and then through a pre-project meeting with partners in Jordan funded by Durham University. Throughout this development phase our consortium participants have unanimously agreed the pressing need for, and beneficial impact of, this work within the Jordanian museum and education sectors.
The impact of this project on participating Jordanian school children and their teachers should be considerable. Learning through active engagement in the museum activities developed as part of this project should provide an interesting, enjoyable and memorable eye-opener for children and teachers into how just how rewarding it can be to learn about one's past. On returning home, children are likely to share their positive experiences with their families, and to request repeat visits to the museums they have visited. Such impact could also remain until adulthood, establishing a vital new set of allies in the protection of Jordan's cultural heritage, as threats to it from urban development and agricultural intensification continue grow. The impact on the teachers is also likely to be positive and profound - exposing them to the various learning opportunities provided in museums and their collections, to how children can benefit from museum visits, and to how museum collections and displays can be linked back to the national curriculum and ongoing educational process.
Jordanian museum staff, through training and practice as part of the project, will enjoy a rare opportunity to upgrade their knowledge and skills and to see the full educational potential of their own institutions. Both the AMJ and the Jordan Museum will benefit from interacting with museum learning staff from the UK. The collaboration between Jordanian museums in this project also has the potential to create new professional networks of mutual support and guidance.
The Durham University Museums learning team will also gain from their exposure to museum practice and professionals working in a different national and cultural context, learn from success stories that can be translated into good practice back home, and add to their developing portfolio of international collaboration. Moreover, the links between Durham University's nationally designated Oriental Museum collection and collections held in Jordanian museums will create opportunities for future collaborative activities that benefit staff, students and visitors, such as the loan of objects for exhibitions and staff and student exchanges.
The Museum Directorate at the Department of Antiquities is already working on renovating some museums and recruiting new staff. This project provides a perfect opportunity to build on the work they are doing, and by maintaining our museum training programme the MD will be able to sustain professional development on an annual basis, and extend the benefits of our project to staff in other museums.
Our project should also provide a positive impact on participating Jordanian universities. In addition to learning from their participation in our activities, they will be encouraged to introduce a museum placement module as part of heritage/museums degree programmes. Furthermore, an MoU between the DoA and the Ministry of Higher Education could establish a network of museums and heritage organisations that would provide internships for students to gain new knowledge and skills through contributing their much-needed input to ongoing museum projects. It would also help match graduate skills to museum jobs and establish a local pool of human resources to be recruited into the museums and heritage sector.

Publications

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Skeates, R.G. (2020) Reinvigorating museum education in Jordan in Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant

 
Description We are systematically working through and meeting the five objectives of our research project.

Research has been undertaken during our museum visits and stakeholder meetings in Amman in March 2019, our focus group meeting held at the Jordan Museum in April 2019, our training programme held in Jordan and Durham in July and October 2019, and a school event held at the Jordan Archaeological Museum in November 2019.

We have consequently begun to answer our three key research questions:

1) What is good practice in using museums to engage young people in learning about their multicultural past?
• Good practice lies at the interface between international experience and local needs; international experts and professional standards can make a valuable contribution here, if experts work in partnership with Jordanian colleagues in a post-colonial manner that rewards partners equally, and if international standards are adapted pragmatically to local circumstances and solutions
• Recognizing that Jordanian museums hold some amazing collections of artefacts, that are also full of potential to develop more multicultural narratives of the past
• Capitalizing on Jordanian museum staff who passionately want their fellow citizens to learn about and connect with their heritage
• Providing formal training for museum staff and school teachers in museum education, starting with the basics, and appointing more dedicated education officers in museums with certified experience and skills (along the lines of the education officer role recently established by the Jordanian Civil Service Council).
• Establishing museum education policies, but with a focus on tackling critical problems and priorities
• Establishing a dedicated space/room in every museum for educational activities
• Establishing a schools education programme, with reference to the National Curriculum, including a pre-visit booking system, and engaging visiting pupils in hands-on learning activities, even if on a low budget
• Recognising that a key to success is effective communication between museum staff and their visitors, including re-working museum texts and object displays to make them more accessible to visitors of different age groups
• Attracting families (with children) to visit museums, welcoming visitors with disabilities, and persuading local communities to value and get involved with the work of museums and heritage sites
• Building on existing museum and heritage site outreach work with communities, schools and marginalised groups (e.g. refugees)
• Encouraging university students to visit and volunteer in museums, and making use of their enthusiasm and communication skills in engaging with children, both in museums and at schools
• Encouraging museum staff to voice their criticisms of established museum practices, and undertaking evaluations of learning activities in museums
• Establishing dialogue with, and gaining support from, the Jordanian Museums Department and Ministry of Education

2) What constitutes successful partnerships between museums, schools and academic institutions to engage the young in learning about their multicultural past?
• Museum staff building on personal relationships with (often enthusiastic) teachers to explain how museum collections and displays can be used to support their teaching, providing them with educational materials for visits, and following these up with post-visit outreach work
• Museums and teachers establishing a Friends of Museum club or even a museum room in local schools
• University degrees (e.g. in museum and heritage studies, conservation, tourism, and architecture) incorporating hands-on museum- and heritage-based educational activities and internships into their programmes, with an emphasis on students' future employability in the Jordanian museum and heritage sector
• Museum staff increasing community awareness of the value of the cultural heritage resources offered by local museums and heritage sites

3) How can good practice for engaging the young in learning about the past, and a successful model of partnership to support this, be adopted, adapted and sustained within the museum and education sectors in Jordan?

To ensure that Jordanian schools can make full use of museums as teaching and learning resources:
• 1) MoUs approving 'educational' (as opposed to 'entertainment') school visits to museums will need to be established between Jordanian museums and the Ministry of Education (particularly in the current political context in which public schools are generally prohibited from undertaking excursions following a tragic fatality during a school visit to the Dead Sea), including specifying a budget for transportation;
• 2) National Curriculum Committees will need to be informed of the educational potential of museum collections to support classroom objectives (an example of good practice being the 2012 Ministry of Education/UNESCO/Friends of Archaeology programme, 'I Am Jerash', which focusses on cultural and historical topics surrounding the archaeological site of Jerash);
• 3) the Department of Antiquities will need to streamline and speed up approval procedures for making changes to public museum displays;
• 4) museums will need to provide teachers with packs of educational materials

To ensure that good practice is shared between museum staff in Jordan and is sustainable, many of our Jordanian colleagues are now:
• 1) acknowledging the gap between state-funded public museums and privately-funded independent museums;
• 2) visiting each other's museums and heritage sites to think about the pros and cons, and talking about cross-institutional collaborations,
• 3) sharing news and discussions via social media (WhatsApp and Facebook),
• 4) experienced members of staff offering mentoring to less experienced colleagues;
• 5) calling for the establishment of a Jordanian Museums Association,
• 6) Jordanian museums establishing a new kinds of partnership working, with Jordanian interests foremost in the context of international development projects (e.g. preferring training provided by Jordanian-run heritage management NGOs, such as Sela for Vocational Training and Protection of Cultural Heritage, in a conscious effort to reduce Jordanian economic (and socio-political) dependency on foreign 'aid'),
• 7) discussing how to influence the content of new Jordanian heritage legislation
• 8) discussing the need for new, targeted, state funding in museum education
Exploitation Route These findings are being taken forward by us to establish a set of guidelines for good practice in Jordanian museum education, and to advocate these to policy makers in Jordan, to be completed by the end of March 2021.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Evaluation of the 4-day training programme we provided in Jordan in July 2019 for Jordanian museum staff on museum communication and education has confirmed that trainees gained a range of benefits. Of the 35 respondents, 12 referred to gaining knowledge and skills related to communication and interpretation in museums, 9 in dealing with museum visitors, 5 in engaging communities in museums, 2 in collections care, and 2 in museum management. 9 also acknowledged gaining a better understanding of museum needs. In addition, 11 highlighted the benefit of the training programme in establishing, for the first time, an informal collaborative network of museum staff across Jordanian museums. This has since developed further, with the establishment of a WhatsApp group and Facebook page to share news, photos and discussion, and with museum staff beginning to visit each other's museums. In addition, during feedback gained in October 2019, 13 respondents confirmed that they had implemented small changes in their museums as a consequence of the July training (e.g. changing display labels, introducing the concept of the museum to children, meeting and consulting with children, using an exploratory rather than factual approach to teaching and learning, and establishing a new course on museums with the Ministry of Education). Evaluation of the 9-day training programme we provided in Durham and Northeast England in October 2019 for Jordanian museum staff on three different strands - museum education, museum research, and museum marketing - also recorded high levels of satisfaction. In particular, there was a rich variety of responses to the question of what knowledge and skills the trainees gained (ranging from undertaking change in museums, to communicating with diverse groups, to engaging school children, to display methods, to professional development, and the nature of museum studies), indicating that the benefits were individualised (as opposed to generic). The impact of our October 2019 UK training programme on Jordanian museum professionals has been confirmed appreciatively the Senior Education and Outreach Specialist at the Jordan Museum, who wrote: "I noticed some of them [the trainees] started with a new way of thinking (how education and learning is important to our museum) I think we started with a solid base to establish a new culture for the Jordanian museums to be centres for education, culture and learning Thank you for letting us be a part of changing." (31 October 2019) The Vice President of Sela for Vocational Training and Protection of Cultural Heritage, also confirmed that the training had an immediate impact on one of her colleagues when he returned to Jordan: "I can report that *** went straight away to meet the activity coordinators of all three schools in Umm Sayhoun, obtain the school curricula and asked me to draft together a new activities program tied to curricula to propose to schools. He has got the preliminary approval of two out of three schools and he has prepared all necessary paperwork to be submitted next week." (9 November 2019) The Assistant Dean for Museum Affairs at the University of Jordan, also wrote: "The program for the academics was really excellent. Academics presented their work and got feedback both from academic staff and students with discussions that showed the interest in the presented topics in a different institution, and received another point of views concerning these topics." (9 November 2019) The wider impact that our project is having on the Jordanian museums sector has been confirmed by the Director of the Children's Museum Jordan, who wrote that, "The project is much needed in Jordan and I have no doubt that it will create even more impact as it progresses further." (27 February 2010) Evaluation reports are currently being produced for our final training programmes and schools activities, undertaken between December 2020 and February 2021.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Affiliation with The Council for British Research in the Levant 
Organisation Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Contribution to the CBRL's research programme
Collaborator Contribution The Council for British Research in the Levant has granted our project Affiliated Status for 2020-2021.
Impact None so far
Start Year 2020
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Al-Saraya Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Folklore Museum, Amman
Country Jordan 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Jerash Archaeological Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Jordan Archaeological Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth
Country Jordan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Royal Automobile Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Royal Tank Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation The Abdul Hameed Shoman Public Library
Country Jordan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation Tiraz Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Expansion of network of Jordanian museum project partners 
Organisation University of Jordan
Department Heritage Museum
Country Jordan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have contributed training in museum education
Collaborator Contribution They have have acted as advocates for our research and development project in museum education, within and beyond their own institutions
Impact None so far
Start Year 2019
 
Description Development of educational archaeology toolkits for use by schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact From December 2020, out project partner, Sela for Vocational Training and Protection of Cultural Heritage, began working on creating a series of archaeological activities supported by educational toolkits to be used by museums, schools and on archaeological sites in Jordan. Sela has produced 10 stratigraphy boxes (a sealed glass box with layers of soil showing replica objects in some layers) and accompanying activity booklets adapted to different museum collections. Sela also produced archaeological toys, consisting of a model of an archaeological site covered by sand, along with an excavation kit, information sheet and an activity booklet. Sela's team has since carried out several activities, working with school children and their teachers, to pilot and evaluate these products.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Initial presentation of the project to key decision makers in the Jordanian museum, heritage and education sectors 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact During our initial visit to Amman in March 2019, we held meetings with key decision-makers in the Jordanian museum, heritage and education sectors to inform them about our research project: the Acting Director General of the Department of Antiquities (Mr. Yazid Elayan), the Director of the Jordan Museum (Mr. Ihab Amarin), and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education (Mr. Sami Al Salaytah).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Jordan Archaeological Museum school educational event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Following further training of museum staff and university students, staff of the Jordan Archaeological Museum, in collaboration with our Jordanian project partners and their university students, collaboratively planned and delivered sets of educational activities for visiting schools. The first of these took place, with Ministry of Education approval, in November 2019. 30 children from Balqis primary school, supported by 30 architectural heritage students from the Hashemite University, participated in an educational event at the museum centred on a carving of the Greek goddess Tyche, including discussions of the relation of the carving to the Amman citadel archaeological site (where the museum is situated). The event culminated in the children being rewarded with museum souvenirs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Newton Prize 2020 Final 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Over the course of 2020, our project received significant publicity during the process of being shortlisted for the final of the 2020 Newton Prize, which culminated in November 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.nrf.ac.za/media-room/news/newton-prize-2020-shortlist-announced
 
Description Training in museum education for Jordanian museum staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Based on the findings of our initial research into good practice in using museums to engage young people in learning about their multicultural pasts, in July 2019 we (the UK and Jordanian project partners) provided a 4-day training programme in Jordan for Jordanian museum staff on museum communication and education. This was hosted by four of our partner museums (Royal Tank Museum, Royal Automobile Museum, Salt Historical Museum, the Jordan Museum). An unprecedented 45 trainees attended, from 24 institutions all over Jordan (Royal Automobile Museum, Royal Heritage Directorate, Children's Museum, Jordan Museum, Jordanian National Gallery of Arts, Royal Tank Museum, Umm Qais Museum, Dar Assaray Museum, Ajloun Museum, Jarash Archaeological Museum, Faynan Museum, Folklore Museum, Jordanian Museum of Popular Traditions, Jordan Archaeological Museum, Karak Museum, Lowest Point on Earth Museum, Mafraq Museum, Tiraz?Widad Kawar Home for Arab Dress & Textile Museum, Sela for Vocational Training and Protection of Cultural Heritage, Petra Museum, German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Amman, University of Jordan Heritage Museum, Norwegian Refugee Council, American Centre for Oriental Research).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Training in museum education for Jordanian museum staff held in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact With the active help of our CoIs, the Jordanian Prime Minister's office approved the participation of staff from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and state-funded museums in our training programme held in the UK in October 2019. 24 Jordanian colleagues participated in this, representing 17 institutions (Sela for Vocational Training and Protection of Cultural Heritage, University of Jordan, Jordan Museum, Royal Tank Museum, Royal Automobile Museum, Hashemite University, Department of Antiquities, Children's Museum, Folklore Museum, Jordan Archaeological Museum, Lowest Point on Earth Museum, Dar Al-Saraya Museum, Jarash Archaeological Museum, University of Jordan Museum, Karak Archaeological Museum, Shoman Library, Tiraz?Widad Kawar Home for Arab Dress & Textile Museum).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Training programme on producing films of museum objects for use by schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact From November 2020, we started planning for a 4-day training programme on museum education online during Covid-19, to be led by the Jordan Museum. In December 2020, a 2-day training session was delivered via Zoom involving several speakers from the local museum sector sharing their recent experience with online museum education, social media and outreach. The training was attended by at least 30 trainees from the Jordanian heritage and museums sector (both governmental and non-governmental). The focus of the training was on how to produce one type of educational resource: a short film about a museum object to tell a story that children can engage with. Following the training, four trainees worked on producing their own short films supported by the project team. 3D models for the selected objects were created and merged with the films by a recent graduate of the Hashemite University specialised in digital heritage (using mainly software like Agisoft and As-built AutoCAD). A third training day was delivered 15 February 2021 at the Department of Antiquities and attended by its Acting Director General, Mr. Ahmad Al Shami, and 15 trainees from the Jordanian heritage and museums sector and the University of Jordan. The aim of the event was to showcase the films produced by the trainees for feedback and discussion. These films will now be shared with schools. A fourth and final training day was held on the 23rd February 2021 via Zoom, hosted by the Children's Museum, focusing on the use of Filmora9, Canva and InShot to enhance museum staff skills in film production, as well as on how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube) to reach the public and market museum and heritage activities. The sharing and discussion of ideas, including of sector needs, the process of working with museum professionals, consultation on the ground, bringing people together, the gradual building of capacity and giving people the freedom to create were all significant components of these activities to encourage work, innovation and good practice. It is worth emphasizing that our project is the first in Jordan to work with museums to take education beyond their walls and to use digital approaches to engage the public; an initiative that was recently complemented by Arab ICOM's February 2021 workshop on museum education during COVID-19.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020