New museum in Qatar seeks to focus on slave trade

Doha is to get a brand new museum that focuses specifically on migration and  slave trade in the Gulf region. A new complex made out of four century-old buildings in an old neighbourhood of Doha are to become part of a £3.6 billion plan to create the museum as part of the Msheireb Downtown Doha development, which will also contain community centres, hotels, schools, mosques and shops.

Plans for the Downtown Doha project of which the museum is a part

Plans for the Downtown Doha project of which the museum is a part Image by Msheireb Properties

Combining documents from the British Library, the British library in Bahrain, and the expertise of academics from SOAS and McGill, the complex of museums will look into how Qatar went from being a small nation in the middle of a desert, to being one of the wealthiest Gulf states.

The director of the Museum of London, David Spence, was asked to provide advice during the beginning of the idea. Speaking to the Telegraph, Spence explained how problematic a subject-matter slave-trade and the role of migrants is in Qatar, saying it was "very contentious – even more so than in the UK, as the history of Arabian/sub-Saharan slave trading has very little visibility in the Middle East."

Doha skyline.

Doha skyline. Image by Larry Johnson / CC BY 2.0

The museums will have permanent and moving exhibitions, with some focusing on historical slavery and others on modern day slavery. The museum wishes to be an attraction to Qataris as well as to visitors from abroad, with the organisers telling the Telegraph that they are hoping to hire workers for the exhibition in order to have first-hand personal accounts of what happened. Qatar has been trying to focus on tourism in order to be less reliant on oil and gas.

The museum is now open but by appointment only, and will be opening properly by the end of 2016.

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