Dubai's Museum Types

A Structural Analytic

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 United Arab Emirates University
  • 2 Abu Dhabi University
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Dubai is often characterized as a city of artificiality and repackaged public spaces—a city without a past. The old historic Dubai has essentially disappeared, lost in the shadows of iconic resort projects and popular shopping malls. This article asks the following question: how do Dubai's museums function in relation to an urban field for the most part bereft of historical fabric, and in which the history that is made visible within the public realm is largely fictional or highly sanitized? We argue that to make sense of the ways history is represented and circulated in Dubai's public spaces, the traditional category of “museum” should be extended to include both large-scale history-themed malls and small heritage houses. Taken altogether, Dubai's museums and museum-like institutions constitute a conceptually complete and closed system that manages to “resolve” the apparent paradox of an urban context characterized by absence and historical loss, in which, paradoxically, expressions of historical fullness are everywhere.

Museum Worlds

Advances in Research


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