MAKKAH: For many former Aramcons, memories of the earliest days of Saudi Aramco still linger and have been passed down to the next generation. Now, one Saudi is helping to keep those memories alive virtually.
A digital museum has been launched displaying unique pictures, trinkets and items relating to many employees during the 1940s and 1950s.
Named after one Saudi Arabia’s most significant palaces, the Masmak Digital Museum aims to introduce Saudi history to current and future generations, by collecting artifacts and displaying them in several languages, including English, German, Russian and French.
Omar Murshid, the brain behind the museum, came up with the concept while conducting his own research while completing his education in the US.
“I thought of this project when I presented my master’s thesis while studying at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco under the title ‘Al-Masmak Digital Museum’ on the recommendation of the Saudi Society for the Preservation of Heritage (We Are Our Heritage),” he said.
More than 70,000 followers around the world have visited the museum so far, according to Murshid.
He described the project as a virtual building containing a museum and cultural center, with an architectural design inspired by the old Diriyah architecture, Al-Masmak fort and the Murabba Palace, focusing on the experience of visitors. He explained that technology made access to information easy. “Digital museums allow for increased periods of reflection, research and investigation, and reduce physical effort and wait,” he told Arab News.
Though the work has been long and tiring, through research, planning and implementation he was pleased to see that the museum intrigued the relatives of many American ex-Aramco workers, as they reached out to inquire about items their parents and grandparents had owned, noting how some had found images of their ancestors in the museum.
Murshid pointed out that the most interest in the museum was from the US due to the fact that most of the early employees of Saudi Aramco were from America, during the founding era of Saudi Arabia and from when the first oil field was discovered.
“They inquired about that era, which was special for their relatives,” explained Murshid.
“Many of them inherited historical pieces from their relatives who worked for Aramco, especially in the 1940s and 1950s, and wanted to know about the date of gifts. Some of their pocket watches have pictures of King Abdul Aziz, and others carry pictures of the kings of Saudi Arabia. They were special memories for their relatives,” he added.
According to Murshid, many of the photographs in the museum were taken by envoys through which they documented important stages in the establishment of the modern Saudi state. “Those images were hand-printed and acidified, and found in photo albums,” he said.
Murshid pointed out that the items on display included glass cups with the words “Long Live King Abdul Aziz” inscribed on them, rare pocket watches, cloaks, and luxurious oriental shoes. The Saudi national emblem, featuring a palm tree and crossed swords, is engraved on some of the watches and other artifacts.
“The main focus is to bring this type of concept to the world. Not all museum owners seek profit; some seek to spread heritage, to keep generations informed,”