The Future of the Past Project

Founding Director of the Project: Professor Zainab Bahrani

The Future of the Past project brings archaeologists, art historians and conservators from New York to the Columbia Global Centers in Amman and Istanbul. Intensive closed door workshops with colleagues from Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Jordan have taken place at the Columbia University Middle East Research Center in Amman, and at Columbia University’s StudioX in Istanbul. These meetings have led the way to further projects that have brought in other regional partners such as ACOR in Amman and Koç University in Istanbul. The Future of the Past project was initiated by Professor Zainab Bahrani in 2013 as part of a multi-year initiative supported by a grant from President Bollinger’s Global Innovation Fund, and facilitated by the Columbia Global Centers. The third regional meeting took place in February 2018 at the Columbia Global Center in Amman, Jordan, organized by the outstanding staff of CUMERC. It follows the earlier workshops hosted by the Columbia Global Center, Istanbul (October 2015) and CUMERC Amman (November 2016). In 2016 and 2018 an additional phase was hosted by ACOR, Amman and we are particularly grateful to Dr. Barbara A. Porter, Director of ACOR Amman, for her assistance and support.

Zainab Bahrani, whose vision for these regional workshops has now expanded into several directions of heritage preservation, invited her colleagues at the department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to join forces with Columbia in order to offer their museum expertise. The workshops are thinking groups on emergency response, conservation and documentation of monuments, heritage architecture, museum collections, and the preservation of archives. The regional workshop format was initiated by Professor Bahrani, a native of Iraq, because she felt that the voices of local scholars and preservationists were often left out of the conversation regarding the preservation of their own heritage. Bahrani also writes academic papers on postcolonial and decolonization theories and their significance in approaches to the heritage preservation matters, and has insisted on the inclusion of the voices of colleagues in the region. The multi-year project has been supported by grants from Columbia University, Koç University, the Chrest Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation. We are grateful to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their assistance with this initiative.

View the Istanbul Global Center's record of the event here.

“The Absent Past,” Professor Zainab Bahrani’s keynote speech from the first meeting of The Future of the Past initiative held at Columbia University’s StudioX in Istanbul in 2015, can be downloaded here in PDF format in Arabic, English and Turkish.