Birzeit University Museum is an innovative art space at the heart of the university campus, seeking to produce contemporary arts and promote its practice amongst the university community and across the Palestinian society at large, through a multidisciplinary experimental approach. The Museum works organically through its surrounding environment, proposing a unique learning model for an art museum within the Palestinian cultural experience.
Enriching the knowledge of contemporary artistic practices, providing a boundless source of community development.
Believing that art practice is an active instrument to generate progressive ideas & social advancement, Birzeit University Museum works to produce contemporary art and to promote its tools as a form of creative knowledge.
In 1997, the Founding Committee for the Promotion of Cultural Heritage was formed at Birzeit University, chaired by lecturer Vera Tamari. The committee aimed at conserving the unique Tawfiq Canaan Collection of Amulets and Talismans, which was donated by Canaan family to the university after it was kept away in Jerusalem since 1948, protecting it from the aftermath of the Palestinian Catastrophe (Al-Nakba). It was initially conserved and displayed in a small room at the university’s main library building along with the Palestinian costumes collection bought by the university in the 1980s’.
Besides that, the first art works collection was being formed as Swiss artist Rene Feurer donated to the university some his art works in 1994 and then Syrian born artist Marwan Qassab Bashi in 1998, followed by many others later. Back then, the art works collection was conserved and displayed at Qamariah gallery for virtual arts, which was the university’s first gallery space.
The Ethnographic and Artistic Museum opened its first gallery space on campus in 2005, run by artist Vera Tamari. Simultaneously, the Virtual Gallery website was launched for archiving Palestinian art and the university’s artistic collections.
Since then, the Museum has been an open artistic space, offering several artistic exhibitions as well as the E-library, which made the Museum, all along, the first to be open all year long.
Birzeit University Museum stands today on a legacy of an unparalleled museum practice experience within the Palestinian context, opening new venues for arts and critical thinking as well as professional development in a unique art platform that puts forward new forms of work and fresh thinking towards artistic production and the concept of material cultural heritage, exhibition concepts, while developing the concepts of exhibits, artistic publications, educational experience and public outreach in intense and vivid encounters through its daily artistic practice.
Birzeit University Museum highly values learning through experimenting as an innovative alternative to access information outside of the mainstream education and embraces the values of participation and access to resources for the community within the collective history of Birzeit University and the Palestinian community, seeking to offer opportunity and space that allow the formation of an intellectual, political and cultural discourse that differs from the mainstream rhetoric, hoping to empower the younger generations in formulating a new social and political vision for the future.
Birzeit University Museum collections home over 2100 pieces today, including the Traditional Palestinian Costumes Collection, Tawfiq Canaan Talismans and Amulets Collection and Art Works Collection. Through this program, the expanding artistic and ethnographic collections are studied, displayed, documented and conserved.
The collections are also used as a material and visual source of knowledge that look into the notions of history, identity, heritage and many more. The Birzeit University collections have been the corner stone of the Museum for more than 20 years.
Many of the art works have been displayed in several occasions in different places on campus, such as the main library building, Kamal Nasser auditorium and several offices. The Canaan hall in the Post-Graduate Studies Building is open for visits for the ethnographic collection, for artistic and academic purposes.
Through this program, the Museum opens a new platform for the local community to come in direct interaction with self produced artistic exhibitions on certain issues, like the sequential Cities Exhibition, Beyond Aesthetics and Framed-Unframed and Political Posters, and solo exhibitions like “Floating Free” by Bashir Makhoul, and a variety of student exhibitions allowing the use the Musuem as a supporting space.
This program offers student a varied and hands on training opportunity, whereby it shifts their standpoint from audience to active participants in artistic production.
Birzeit University Museum offers various educational opportunities, through offering a course for BA students entitled "Contemporary Palestinian Art" and volunteering, training and internship opportunities, as part of “Basar” program, besides the Art for Schools program which targets school students and art teachers.
Birzeit University Museum - Main Gallery
The main gallery was opened since 2005, with an open exhibition space of 400 square meters, including offices, exhibition space and student studios.
The gallery offer a year long open program of exhibitions, where students and faculty members use the main hall and the exhibition space for discussions and different lectures.
Canaan Hall- Ethnographic Collection Station
Canaan Hall was opened in 2013 as a small exhibition space for the ethnographic collections and for research, documentation and restoration. It is open for pre-arranged visitors, artists and researchers who are encouraged to use the collections in academic and artistic research. It includes 1600 pieces of the Dr. Tawfiq Canaan Collections and the Traditional Costumes.
This was the first space dedicated for preserving and displaying collections in the corridors of Sabbagh Building. Al- Qamariah presneted many exhibitions before the establishment of the Museum. Currently, it is used for art collections storage that have reached 370 art works.
The Birzeit University Museum opened Daraj Gallery in the summer of 2016 as a space for experimental and educational exhibitions for young artists and curators, empowering them to showcase their cultural productions and offering them an open platform for debate with their colleagues and audience. This is the first gallery dedicated for the use of Art Faculty students, which is currently under construction.
The Virtual Gallery
It was established as an online archive for Palestinian art practice. It was launched in 2005, with the objective of offering a window on contemporary art in Palestine available in both Arabic and English. The gallery was setup as a specialized website for contemporary visual art that provides regular and updated information on the latest developments in the Palestinian art scene, locally and abroad. The online gallery included a library, previews of exhibitions, artist portfolios, talks and seminars. It became a valuable reference on art practice within the Palestinian context. It also included a data base of the rare art and ethnographic collections owned by the university.