The National Museum (Sultanate of Oman)

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The National Museum - Sultanate of Oman
National Museum is located in Oman
National Museum
National Museum
Location in Oman
Established 20 November 2013 (2013-11-20)
Location as-Saidiya Street, opposite Qasr al-Alam Palace, Muscat Oman
Coordinates 23°36′42″N 58°35′38″E / 23.6115826°N 58.5937595°E / 23.6115826; 58.5937595
Type National museum
Director Jamal Al Moosawi (acting)
Public transit access Mwaslat bus no.4

The National Museum – Sultanate of Oman, established in 2013, is the Sultanate's flagship cultural institution, showcasing the nation’s heritage from the earliest human settlement in the Oman Peninsula some two million years ago through to the present day.

As a national institution with global outreach, the museum is dedicated to ensuring Oman’s cultural heritage is understood and appreciated not only within the Sultanate, but also internationally. Further, it aims to provide opportunities for cultural expression, innovation and the transfer of traditional skills and knowledge from one generation to the next.

The museum is located in the heart of Muscat in a magnificent purpose-designed building. The total area of the building is 13,700 square metres (147,000 sq ft), including 4,000 square metres (43,000 sq ft) allocated for 14 permanent galleries – The Land and the People Gallery, Maritime History Gallery, Arms and Armour Gallery, Aflaj Gallery, Currency Gallery, Prehistory and Ancient History Galleries, Splendours of Islam Gallery, Oman and the World Gallery, Intangible Heritage Gallery and Renaissance Gallery, among others. A further 400 square metres (4,300 sq ft) are allocated for temporary exhibitions.

The National Museum houses 5466 objects and offers 43 digital immersive experiences, a fully equipped Learning Centre, state-of-the-art conservation facilities, a UHD cinema and discovery areas for children. It features an integrated infrastructure for special needs and is the first museum in the Middle East to adopt Arabic Braille script for the visually impaired. It also houses the region’s first open-plan museum storage concept, where visitors can learn about the various processes that artefacts go through before they are put on display.

Building and Facilities[edit]

Building and Facilities
Total plot area 24000 m2
Total building area 13700 m2
Total gallery area 4000 m2
Number of galleries 14
Permanent Galleries The Land and the People

Maritime History

Arms and Armour

Civilisation in the Making

Aflaj

Currency

Timeline

Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn

Land of Frankincense

Prehistory and Ancient History

Splendours of Islam

Oman and the World

The Renaissance

Intangible Heritage

Other facilities Learning Centre

Conservation Facilities

Temporary Exhibitions Gallery

Collections Gallery (Open Storage Concept)

Café

Gift Shop

Galleries[edit]

The Land and the People Gallery

The Land and the People Gallery[edit]

This gallery, dedicated to the land and the people of Oman, shows how the geographic context and corresponding availability of resources have shaped local and national culture – and vice versa. The importance of water and dictates of desert life are highlighted alongside the prosperity of oasis towns, the splendid isolation of the mountains, and the cross-cultural character of the seafaring coast. The journey from utility to artistry is also charted here, through displays of traditional costumes, jewellery, ceremonial weaponry and other hand-crafted articles – which satisfy not only the basic requirements for human survival but also such personal and societal priorities as adornment, identity, ceremony and religious expression.

Maritime History Gallery

Maritime History Gallery[edit]

This gallery celebrates Oman’s long relationship with the sea. With its extensive coastline, the story of Oman’s past is in many senses a maritime history. For millennia, fishermen have plied its coasts for their livelihood. Omani traders carried goods across the seas as early as the third millennium BC and by the Islamic Period they were part of a vast trading network that extended from China to East Africa, the single longest maritime trade route at the time.

In the past four centuries, Omanis established two maritime empires that connected Oman with the Persian Gulf, Makran Coast and East Africa. As Omani mariners braved the open seas, they became excellent navigators and produced a wealth of navigational literature. They developed an active tradition of boatbuilding, using the materials and tools available to them to build a wide variety of vessels. Today, Oman continues its relationship with the sea. It has a modern naval force, operates prosperous seaports and leads the region in the reconstruction of historical vessels.

Arms and Armour Gallery[edit]

The Arms and Armour Gallery traces the cultural aspects of traditional Omani weapons from prehistoric times to the beginning of the 14th century AH/20th century, and examines their technical development through time and interaction with the outside world. One section of the gallery features displays of swords, spears, axes, arrows and exquisitely crafted Omani daggers. A second section is allocated to the display of rifles, cannons, and other historical firearms.

The gallery’s unique design was inspired by one of the two towers of al-Hazm Fort, which was built in the 11th century AH/17th century CE during the time of the Yarubi Imams and the foundation of the first Omani Empire.

Civilisation in the Making Gallery

Civilisation in the Making Gallery[edit]

The Civilisation in the Making Gallery explores Oman’s architectural heritage beginning with the Civilisation of Magan and continuing through to modern times. Its content spans more than 5,000 years and covers numerous archaeological sites and buildings of historic, artistic, intellectual, social and technical significance.

The gallery consists of six sections. The first section focuses on Bahla Fort and Oasis, which were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1407−08 AH/1987 CE. The second section describes the main historical political capitals of Oman (Sohar, ar-Rustaq, Nazwa and Muscat). The third section is dedicated to the architecture of forts and castles in Oman and their unique historical contexts. The fourth section focuses on rural palaces and fortified houses and the fifth section delineates various types of residential housing. The final section explains the aesthetics of traditional Omani architecture.

Aflaj Gallery

Aflaj Gallery[edit]

The Aflāj Gallery is dedicated to Oman’s ancient systems of water management, some 3,000 of which are still active today. These life-giving systems use gravity to channel water from precious water resources under or above ground, often for long distances, and carry groundwater, spring water or surface water in support of agriculture, industry and domestic use.

The origins of Oman’s aflāj are known to date back to at least the 6th century CE, and recent archaeological discoveries suggest that irrigation systems were in use in northern Oman as early as the Bronze Age (3,100–2,000 BCE). Today, their use for the fair sharing of water in towns and villages continues to be underpinned by mutual dependence and communal values and guided by astronomical observations.

In 1427 AH/2006 CE, five Omani aflāj were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in recognition of their exceptional cultural value. They include Falaj Daris, Falaj al-Khatmayn and Falaj al-Malki in ad-Dakhiliyah Governorate, Falaj al-Muyassar in South al-Batinah Governorate and Falaj al-Jeela in South ash-Sharqiyah Governorate.

Currency Gallery

Currency Gallery[edit]

The history of money in Oman covers a period of almost 2,300 years. The earliest coins displayed in this gallery were minted in Oman during the Late Iron Age before the arrival of Islam. The most recent items on display relate to digital transactions and pose questions about the future of physical money. Much of the currency displayed in the gallery was minted elsewhere but found its way to Oman through the country’s extensive network of overland and seaborne trade. Many of these coins were part of hoards hidden hundreds of years ago and never recovered by their original owners.

Timeline Gallery

Timeline Gallery[edit]

The Timeline Gallery's circular form was inspired by the Nazwa Fort Keep. It features a panoramic glass lift and a spiral ramp that connects the ground and first floors of the Museum. The gallery has seven showcases, designed as ‘windows’ to provide a glimpse into key epochs in Oman's history and lead the visitor through space and time. The gallery has also been designed to engender dialogue between the Museum and its audiences, as visitors are encouraged to provide feedback on what they believe were the key moments or milestones in Oman's history; their feedback, in turn, is used by curators to inform further exhibition development.

Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery[edit]

Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn[edit]

This gallery explores the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn, which together form the most complete collection of 3rd millennium BCE settlements and necropolises in the world. Located near Ibri in northwest Oman, the sites provide tantalising clues to Oman’s first civilisations and to the networks that bound them together with Mesopotamia, Iran and Indus.

From around 3,000–2,000 BCE, the Ibri area was likely a populous centre of productivity and political authority where caravan routes converged and multiple families and tribal groups came together to exchange goods from across the ancient world. Bat is a vast necropolis incorporating some 350 stone-built tombs and also includes a large settlement area. Al-Ayn comprises 21 spectacularly sited ‘beehive’ tombs which stand out as being in a remarkable state of preservation. Al-Khutm is notable for its complex 3rd millennium BCE tower with meticulously fitted stone work.

The Land of Frankincense[edit]

Dhofar is one of the few places on Earth where the frankincense tree (Boswellia sacra) naturally thrives, owing to the south-west monsoon – a climatic phenomenon that brings moisture-laden winds, clouds and a rain shadow to the region each summer. Boswellia sacra once grew only in isolated groves beyond the Dhofar Mountains. Its modern distribution extends from Jabal Samhan, which produces the best grades of frankincense, into the eastern highlands of Yemen.

Long-distance trade in frankincense was ongoing by the 3rd millennium BCE and included links to Mesopotamia, Indus and Egypt. In recognition of the importance of the frankincense trade across the ages, four sites have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list: al-Baleed, Khor Rori (Sumhuram), Shisr (Ubar) and Wadi Dawkah.

Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery

Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery[edit]

The exhibits in this gallery span two million years of human presence in the Oman Peninsula and three main archaeological periods; the Early Paleolithic (2,000,000–3,100 BCE), the Bronze Age (3,100–1,300 BCE), and the Iron Age (1,300 BCE–629 CE).

Included from the Early Paleolithic are the earliest traces of human occupation in the Oman Peninsula. Artefacts from the Bronze Age highlight the great social and economic transformation that took place during the 4th millennium BCE and the rise of the copper-rich civilisation known as Magan. There are also artefacts from Sallūt, a stronghold of Arab history which encompasses both Bronze and Iron Age sites and provides evidence of a mysterious snake cult. The Iron Age is further represented by a warrior’s weaponry and a series of finds related to metallurgy, pottery, fashion and style leading up to the Islamic Era. Articles representative of the Sassanid and Parthian presence are also exhibited in this gallery.

Splendours of Islam Gallery
Oman and the World Gallery

Splendours of Islam Gallery[edit]

This gallery sheds light on Oman’s fourteen-hundred-year relationship with Islam, beginning in 6 AH/627 CE. Here, the origins and history of the Noble Qur'an are explained and exquisite examples of illuminated scripture are displayed. The advent of Islam in Oman is also discussed, and details of contributions made by Omani scholars in Islamic doctrinal sciences, natural sciences, Arabic language and literature are revealed through a collection of rare manuscripts.

A special gallery section dedicated to the traditional arts examines Oman’s earliest design motifs and traces the artistic influence of Islam in the evolution of calligraphic, geometric, floral and arabesque decoration, and in the depiction of the living. The evolving aesthetics of mosques and other forms of religious and civil architecture are also examined.

Among the many other Islamic themes explored in this gallery are religious tolerance, women in Islam, the Hajj – the journey to the holy lands – Eid celebrations, the Hijri calendar, and the honouring of the dead.

Oman and the World Gallery[edit]

As early as 5,000 years ago, Oman and other civilisations of the ancient world sustained their progress through a lively exchange of goods, peoples and ideas – and the ties thus established were the precursors to the economic and political relations that flourished through successive millennia.

This gallery, arranged in thematic sections, examines historical ties between Oman and other nations from their origins through to the late 14th c AH/20th c CE. Included are timelines, changing displays of documents and a collection of objects that tell the story of key events and personalities. Palace and household settings dating from the 13th–14th c AH/19th–20th c CE reveal the importance of treasures of trade and show how the cosmopolitan character of the Omani people has been shaped by cross-cultural connections. Maps, travelogues, and old documents further track the course of cultural, scientific, trade and diplomatic relations between Oman and its neighbouring nations, as well as Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East, Europe and North America.

The Renaissance Gallery

The Renaissance Gallery[edit]

This Gallery commemorates the Renaissance together with other key elements of Oman’s modern history from 1156–62 AH/1744–49 CE to the present day, focusing on the rule of the al-Busaid Dynasty.

In 1390 AH/1970 CE, guided by the unifying vision of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, Oman made a dramatic shift to a new era of peaceful, purposeful modern development. Known as the ‘Renaissance’ (Asr an-Nahda), this remarkable era has witnessed the establishment of modern state institutions and integral infrastructure, enhancement of national security, building of strong foreign relations and introduction of modern systems of law to protect human rights and ensure equal opportunity for all Omani people. Characterised by the strengthening of national unity and identity, and by an abiding belief in the generous mission of Islam, the Renaissance era has been one of the most influential epochs in Omani history.

Intangible Heritage Gallery

Intangible Heritage Gallery[edit]

In recognition of its inestimable value, a separate gallery in the National Museum has been dedicated to Oman’s intangible heritage. The gallery is equipped with audio-visual technologies for the delivery of this precious heritage to visitors and includes a presentation area where poets, storytellers and musicians and dancers can interact with visitors. Among the gallery’s key focal subjects is al-Bar’ah, a traditional dance which is the first manifestation of Oman’s intangible heritage to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Other focal subjects include musical instruments, traditional music and dance, Omani cuisine and the status of camels and horses in Oman.

Governance[edit]

The National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman was formally promulgated by Royal Decree No. 62/2013 issued on 16 Muharram 1435 AH corresponding to 20 November 2013 CE, as a juristic personality, with financial and administrative independence and the capacity to own, manage and dispose of tangible and intangible assets of Oman's cultural heritage.

A Board of seven Trustees is responsible for the strategic management of the Museum. Trustee appointments are governed by the Council of Ministers. The Board is chaired by His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tarik al-Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture. Trustees include Her Excellency Dr. Madiha bint Ahmed al-Shibaniyah, Minister of Education; Deputy Chair of the Board, His Excellency Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al-Busaidi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; His Excellency Dr. Hilal bin Ali al-Hinai, Secretary General of the Research Council; His Excellency Dr. Hamad bin Muhammed al-Dhoyani, Chairman of the National Records and Archives Authority; Sir Nicholas Andrew Serota, Director of the Tate; Professor Dr. Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovskiy, General Director of the State Hermitage. The Museum is headed by Director-General Jamal al-Moosawi.

Logo and brand[edit]

The brand identity of the National Museum has been designed to reflect the cultural heritage of Oman. This includes the Museum's role in raising public awareness of traditional values, and the embodiment of the people of Oman in relation to their homeland and their cultural heritage. The logo itself has been inspired by the unique script styles found in ancient Omani manuscripts of the Noble Qur'an. At the same time it embodies subtle contemporary elements that are reflective of its modern context. Thus, it represents the cultural legacy that the National Museum offers through its comprehensive collection of objects dating from Oman's prehistory to the modern era.

References[edit]