By Mandi Gomez, London – United Kingdom
The recently launched Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF) Travel portal offers a travel experience like no other for groups of seven or more people, delivers unique insight into various areas of cultural interest, and exemplifies responsible travel. Each of the tours offered in the 2009–10 programme focuses on a specific theme of Islamic Art in the Mediterranean within North Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe, and features a selection of art and architecture seldom seen on the tourist trail and not commonly presented in most travel guides or tour programmes.
The relevant thematic guide is available in print or as an e-book for travellers to peruse beforehand. They are based on the MWNF Exhibition Trail format where instead of moving the works of art, it is the visitor who moves around to discover monuments, archaeological sites and artefacts at museums within their natural environment. Researched and written by local scholars, Islamic history is told from the local perspective, an ethos upheld by the MWNF Travel platform.
All MWNF tour guides are qualified to at least degree level in the subject of the tour and are expert in the local history of the area. Unusually, MWNF publishes the names of its local partner travel agents, taking a small commission from all tours sold. This income is reinvested to manage and sustain the world’s largest online Museum (www.discoverislamicart.org), which in itself is an extraordinary free resource for academics, students and the intelligent reader alike.
MWNF demonstrates a dedication to inclusive, responsible travel in other ways too. It has devised and overseen various conservation initiatives in the countries concerned, and augmented and supplied signage to provide information about various monuments and sites. In doing this, it has given back visibility and significance to many of them and successfully secured funding and attracted publicity to support further conservation projects.
Importantly, therefore, MWNF has been successful in invigorating a forgotten or at least a depleted cultural pride in some areas. MWNF promotes local heritage: monuments and archaeological sites, museums and their collections, juxtaposing the very well known among them with the less prominent. By presenting cultural heritage in this way, MWNF allows unique insight into the subject of Islamic Art.
MWNF will inspire you whichever doorway you choose to enter it from: whether it’s through reading one of the thematic guides, via the Virtual Museum or in person on a MWNF Travel tour.