Innovative Multaka-Oxford refugee project at Oxford University Museums supported by £1m funding from Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global"
Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global", chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, announced it has donated £1 million to support the Multaka-Oxford refugee project at Oxford University, upskilling refugees settling in Oxford and enhancing cross-cultural understanding. The award-winning Multaka-Oxford project brings the rich and diverse knowledge of people settling in Oxford, many through forced migration, to two Oxford University museums, including History of Science Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum.
Multaka – which means meeting point in Arabic – uses the two University museums and the collections as a meeting point to bring communities together, strengthening cultural understanding through the mutual sharing of art, stories, culture and science. Multaka-Oxford aims to support over 200 volunteers to develop new skills and volunteer as tour guides, all while deepening the understanding of Islamic art and culture across the wider community. The program works with local community organisations that support people settling in Oxford as refugees and asylum seekers and will be delivered by the History of Science Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum. The Multaka-Oxford programme will include a host of initiatives, including community engagement events, museum activations and conferences as well as introduce Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global"’ artisans programme with a view to build further cross-cultural understanding.
The new five-year programme was announced at a signing ceremony attended by HRH Princess Lamia bint Majed Saud Al Saud, Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global", Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) at the University of Oxford, Dr Silke Ackermann, Director of the History of Science Museum and Dr Laura van Broekhoven, Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum.
The project began in 2017 with the museums working in partnership with local community organisations. Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “The support of Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global" is a strong and welcome endorsement of the Multaka-Oxford project, the work of the museum teams and the contribution of our many volunteers. The project offers mutual benefit both to the University and to the volunteers. We are very grateful to Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global" for their support.” Commenting on the launch of the program Her Royal Highness Princess Lamia bint Majed Saud Al Saud, Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global", said: “We are pleased to support the continuation of the Multaka-Oxford programme for another five years. This programme, which opens its arms to refugees and helps to integrate them into the local community through the power of art and culture, plays a powerful role in strengthening cross-cultural understanding in society. Islamic art tells a story of our heritage, which can be often misunderstood, the Multaka-Oxford programme bridges these gaps and brings museum collections to life. This partnership is a true testament to the power of art and role of creative industries in enhancing social development. This project mirrors the successful Multaka programme at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin which we have been proud to support. We look forward to a fruitful partnership.”
The funding from Alwaleed Philanthropies "Global" will enable the Museums to recruit, train and support a new team of 200 volunteers from across Oxfordshire to work with a range of collections - such as scientific instruments from the Islamic World at the History of Science Museum and textiles, objects, and material from the Photographic and Sound Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum. The volunteers will bring diverse perspectives to these collections, sharing within the museums and the wider community, with a particular focus on engaging young people. Together with museum staff, the volunteers will also co-produce online and in-person events at the museums, co-curate displays sharing artefacts from the Islamic world, and lead tours and deliver object handling sessions, among other activities. “In just a relatively short period, the project has deeply affected the lives of everyone involved with it, from staff to volunteers to community partners. Mutual learning and benefit are at the heart of everything we do. For the museums, it has transformed museum practice; it has deepened understanding of the role museums, and for the interpretation of artefacts from the Islamic World and beyond in the heritage sector and our communities, locally and globally,” said Project Manager, Nicola Bird.
Multaka-Oxford is already highly regarded in the museums, arts, and heritage sector, having won the prestigious 2019 Collections Trust Award and the 2019 Museums + Heritage Award for Volunteer Team of the Year. Over the next five years the project aims to share its learning and resources across the sector by establishing a UK Multaka network, offering informal mentoring support to UK heritage projects, sharing project information at conferences, and supporting the development of Multaka projects at other international museums.