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Professor aims to modernize cultural storytelling in Kurdistan

This article originally appeared in Rudaw.

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Rozhen Kamal Mohammed-Amin wants to revolutionize cultural heritage storytelling in the Kurdistan Region, while hoping to add more gender balance to her field.

“When it comes to designing museums, it is no longer about designing buildings, rooms or exhibitions. It is actually about designing the experience,” Mohammed-Amin, a lecturer at Sulaimani Polytechnic University, told Rudaw English.

Her aim is to bring technology into museums and cultural heritage sites in the Kurdistan Region.

She will spend two months at Glasgow University to develop a prototype for interactive storytelling at the Sulaimani Museum, using the EMOTIVE platform.

She will be working in Scotland with her favorite academic, Maria Economou. EMOTIVE is an EU-funded heritage project that aims to use emotional storytelling to dramatically change how people experience heritage sites.

The app is set to prove “a powerful storytelling engine and a set of rich digital media” in the creation of characters and narratives “featuring archaeological sites or collections of artifacts.”

The research is funded by the Nahrein Network and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI).

She envisions bringing technology to the field like augmented reality for part of the design.

“The new generation, especially the younger ones, are very technophile,” she said, all the while arguing that the technology is a medium, not the end goal.

She has already co-developed an app for an outdoor museum in Canada from which she draws experience.

Knowing the stories of artifacts makes them more significant for the individual, according to Mohammed-Amin.

“The more people know about the stories and information involved with cultural heritage legacies, the more they appreciate it. And the more they appreciate it, the more they enjoy,” she argues.

She says that there needs to be a method for more engagement by the people with artifacts and cultural heritage, and that text is the least effective way.

The emotional storytelling method, she believes, is ardently needed to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage, which she believes is in deep danger.

“Iraq’s cultural heritage is in danger. They need to be protected. They need to be preserved, and technology is one of the ways of not only protecting them, documenting them,” Mohammed-Amin argued.

Iraq’s Mosul Museum, Yezidi cultural heritage sites, Kakai and Yarsani cultural heritage sites, and Muslim shrines and sites were eradicated during the ISIS conflict.

Although, she says that the state of Iraq’s cultural heritage wasn’t “ideal” even before ISIS. Cultural heritage sites have been looted and destroyed due to negligence by the people and the government.

The cultural heritage sites’ sector hasn’t created job opportunities for locals, she argues, saying that the sector can help in job creation and tourism for the Kurdistan Region.

One of her first projects will be to develop a digital experience app for the Saray Museum, but it needs funding.

She hopes that her model will encourage more females in her field to come forward and bring more gender equality into the field.

She adopted an affirmative action policy increasing the number of females at her university’s research center, arguing that women can better inspire, incentivize and encourage other women.

This article was originally published in Rudaw.

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