Reclaiming Histories: The Jazirat Al Hamra Virtual Museum


Seth Thompson - American University of Sharjah (AUS)


Radisson Habiba Hall

Project Summary

The Jazirat Al Hamra Virtual Museum is a web-based project that attempts to provide a snapshot of Emirati life before the oil boom by focusing on the preservation of one of the last remaining fishing and pearl villages in the UAE. At March Meeting 2011 Seth Thompson presented the digital domain as a potentially ideal environment to collect and preserve the tangible and intangible elements that define the deteriorating village of Jazirat Al Hamra. The project aims to create a portal and database of photos, 360-degree panoramas, videos, texts and sound to enable an interactive presentation of the history, traditions and stories behind both the material and social culture of the village. Projected to launch in May 2012, Jazirat Al Hamra Virtual Museum is a long-term working experiment in preserving heritage digitally.

Presentation Proposal

This project aims to create a web-based virtual museum, which documents both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Jazirat Al Hamra, a former coastal village in southern Ras Al Khaimah that was abandoned prior to the formation of the UAE. Once an active fishing and pearl diving community and considered to be one of the last traditional towns in the country, Jazirat Al Hamra consists of a hisn, several mosques, a souq and over 100 houses including a wind tower home—many of which are constructed of coral, shell stone and plaster. As the buildings continue to decay due to a dire lack of attention, not only does the architecture need to be documented and mapped, but also the stories and traditions of the people who once lived there need to be recorded—enabling future generations to learn about their past.


Seth Thompson is a media designer and arts journalist involved in documenting and interpreting art, design and culture through print and online presentations. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Design at the American University of Sharjah. He has written on the arts for such magazines as Afterimage, 2A, Bidoun, Dialogue and The International Journal of the Arts in Society. Thompson’s documentaries, Evolving Traditions: Artists Working in New Media (2002) and Outside the Box: New Cinematic Experiences (2005) have aired on many US-based television stations, as well as in New Zealand. Thompson holds an MA in Visual Arts Administration from New York University and an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College.

November 2011


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