SAWA has highlighted our awareness of how language influences our thoughts, and shapes the concepts we work with. As a German-Arabic language workgroup not only did we rely on English as the language in which to mediate, but also to reflect on international museum ideas that originated in an Anglo-American context.
Early on during SAWA sessions we collected museological vocabulary and frequently used key phrases to question how they were applied in multiple localities. We called it our SAWA Glossary. Many terms are understood differently depending on the contexts they are used in. What are the shared and divergent meanings of words? During the global pandemic SAWA meetings became entirely virtual. We used this as an opportunity to return to the glossary as a platform to continue these discussions and share them with others.
In 2020 during the pandemic, 20 former Participants of the SAWA Program started working on a trilingual glossary containing museological terms explained in Arab, English and German. In small mixed groups with two to four participants from the MENA region and Germany, every team found a different approach to a term. This lead led them to reflect on their personal perspectives and to identify translational challenges. They were accompanied by the SAWA facilitators in regular online sessions. In the ongoing SAWA program, it will constantly grow. The glossary is a continuously evolving project; with every year the glossary terms are expanded through new perspectives of a new group of participants.
We deliberately opted for a very open forum and invited participants to choose an individual way to present their exchange, fully aware of the many challenges that publishing workshop experiments pose.
The outcome represents the conversations about the significance and meaning of words and phrases that we all constantly use within the museum framework. The ongoing, and rewarding, challenge is to find a joint definition when using them.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are fully the intellectual property of the authors and their opinions and do not necessarily reflect any official views of the SAWA Museum Studies Program nor of any of the partner institutions.