Museum Education as a tool for Enlightenment

Museum Education as a tool for Enlightenment

By Louise Borges-Hansen and Maiken Hollænder Larsen

Friday the 13th of April we visited Davids Samling and met educator Daniella, who took us on a journey through the crooked and charming exhibition rooms of the Museum. Daniella introduced her vision of using the Islamic exhibition as a tool to challenge and change the prejudices of Danish schoolers and strengthen their opportunities for negotiate and create new shared tales. With the broad collection of Islamic artifacts shown from three diverse perspectives – historical, geographical and cultural-historical – educators such as Daniella have the possibility to show and teach children, and other visitors, that Islam is not as distant and strange as might believed. She showed us that it is not a matter of one against the other, rather a noticeable encounter of different cultures, since Islamic culture has been dispersed across the globe for many centuries. This was indeed interesting to see, as it was presented in a map at the beginning of the tour.

The museum not only aims to exhibit and portray beautiful art from around the world, but with an educational vision, they aim to enlighten and change some of the perceptions caused by the media discourse. With one of their three permanent exhibitions, The Islamic collection, they aim to highlight the beautiful and hidden side of a religion so deeply misinterpreted. According to exhibitors and educators at the museum, this functions as one of the most important exhibitions in the house, as it consist of exquisite crafts from the 7th century until the mid-19th century from an area stretching from Spain to the west China.

School children visiting Davids Samling
(Foto: Skoletjenesten på Davids Samling, Fotograf: Pernille Klemp for Davids Samling)

Islam is one of the biggest religions in the world but also one of the most misrepresented. Media decides the point of view when portraying aspects related to Islam, and when words such as Islam, terror and death often appears side by side in diverse news article, the uneducated and unaware quickly shape their opinion based on what they see and read. A sense of self-preservation may be formed, since it becomes a matter of Us vs. Them, the Western society against non-Western. It seems to be commonly known that in a modern day world media affects society and has the power to influence us in a negative way and shape our perception of reality.

Luckily, some people and institutions are taking a lead in order to prevent these preconceptions and unreasonable hatred towards not just a religion, but an ancient and rich culture. One of them is Davids Samling, a museum centrally located in Copenhagen. The house was property of the Supreme Court Attorney C.L. David, who in the 19th century lived there himself. The old property, now reconstructed, functions as a full-time museum, which has managed to preserve and respect C.L. David’s passion for the historical heritage.

The concept distributed by the media, of Muslims as the representatives of terror, seems to be disturbed and takes a new meaning while walking through the exhibition, as beautiful artefacts lead us through the history of the religion in different areas of the world. Doing so, we are invited to appreciate that maybe we are not so different after all.

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