Constellations of Memory and Representation
A Lunar Sample Display in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
Abstract This chapter looks at a wall display which was on view since the 1970s in Abu Dhabi’s first national museum in the oasis town of Al Ain. Created in the aftermath of the United Arab Emirate’s independence, this display combined traditional visual topoi of the Arab Peninsula with photographic and material testimonies of modernization and progress. Its historical narrative, presented as an almost ‘Warburgian’ image atlas, thus comprises a long history ranging from pre-Islamic times to the contemporary age of space exploration. As such, it represents a dynamic constellation of history which goes beyond the binary notions of tradition versus progress or the ‘global’ versus the ‘local’ which are often prevalent in Orientalist discourses. At the same time, it represents the region’s entanglement with the fossil-driven economies of the late twentieth century.
Keywords United Arab Emirates, National Museums, Photography, Orientalism, Space