NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 41

Editorial Column

Museums: Empowering the Future, Narrating the Past

Majid Abbasi

According to the Statutes of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) related to UNESCO, “A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.1

The word museum has a Latin origin and denotes a place in Ancient Greece dedicated to the Muses, the patron divinities of literature, arts, and knowledge. Early small, private museums began with gathering objects as personal and family collections; they were not open to public. However, later and in a larger scale, museums developed into organizations for collection, preservation, study, and exhibition of valuable, lasting objects with artistic, cultural, historical, and scientific significance on both national and international levels. Museums were transformed into places where historical, scientific, and artistic objects were preserved and were naturally accessible to public through the exhibition of various collections. Since 2010, museum archives increased through accelerating information digitalization. Moreover, there is an increasing possibility to virtually visit museums via websites and applications with extraordinary, high-quality images of the halls, galleries, and their objects. Along with museums, archives including documents, evidences, images, books, treatises, brochures, and catalogues are intended to historically collect and catalogue the evidences. Archives are the primary sources of orderly documents and provide invaluable information about each document to the researchers. From the viewpoint of an archivist, archives themselves are resources for studying, searching, and developing legal, commercial, administrative, and social activities. Historicists, genealogists, lawyers, statisticians, documentarians, researchers, and all those who seek to research and study a particular field are the main audience of the archives.
Building on the concept of design in society, design museums invite their audience to see objects, tools, and works that have played a prominent role in socio-cultural transformations and on their lives. These museums incorporate a wide range of applied arts such as architecture, fashion, furniture, product design, industrial design, visual communications, and new media. Thus, design museums are places that demonstrate the changes of our surrounding world through significant, major designs: from the past mass production of products, innovations, and inventions in the 19th century following the Industrial Revolution, to design in today’s digital world influenced by the informatics revolution. 

The first Iranian museum was founded more than one century ago during the Qajar era; right when modernism began to replace traditionalism. The National Museum of Iran was Iran’s first museum, established in 1916 based on the suggestion of Sani' al-Dowle, the first speaker of the National Consultative Assembly. The museum’s collection included bronze and glass objects, pottery, books, textiles, coins, and ancient weapons. At the same time, with the beginning of archeological excavations in Shush, the Museum of Ancient Iran (National Museum of Iran) was established in 1939 and included an extensive, exceptional collection of the objects belonging to the Ancient Iran and the Islamic era, each of them recounting the history, culture, art, industry, and function of different peoples.
The 1970s was simultaneous with the opening of several important museums connected to the history of art and design. Located in the heart of Tehran, the Glassware and Ceramic Museum of Iran called 'Abgineh Museum' (1976) is an invaluable collection of prehistory, ancient, and Islamic era glassware and ceramics. The objects in this museum demonstrate the various aspects of Iranians’ abilities in the design, decoration, and manufacture of functional vessels. In 1977, Reza Abbasi Museum was established and directed by Aydin Aghdashloo. It included collections of Iranian calligraphy from the prehistory era to the 19th century. The museum’s logo was designed by Morteza Momayez with the calligraphy of Mohammad Ehsaee. Aghdashloo also made some adjustments to its arabesque flower. This museum is a major resource for calligraphy and its different methods, Persian paintings, coffee house paintings, book decoration and manuscript illumination from the 14th to 18th centuries. The Carpet Museum (1977) is an extraordinary collection of Persian carpets and rugs from over 500 years ago until now. Founded in the 1970s, the museum aimed at documenting and collecting one of the most important aspects Iranian design, art, and culture. Finally, Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Arts is the biggest collection of Iran’s and world’s contemporary art since the 19th century which was founded in 1977. The museum’s permanent collection is the most comprehensive and significant modern art collection outside Europe and North America.

Iranian Museum of Graphic Design, which will be discussed in this issue and was already reviewed in another issue of Neshan with a selection of its works, is the first and only graphic design museum in Iran and is the result of the collective efforts and lifelong dream of Iranian graphic designers. Based on the suggestion and insistence of Morteza Momayez, then president of the Iranian Graphic Design Society (IGDS), Majid Balouch enthusiastically became the head of the museum committee and his tireless efforts led to the establishment of the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design. Although there are about ten thousand pieces including the design tools, artworks, and publications such as posters, books, brochures, and magazines in the museum, there is still a need for further collection. There is a complete series of Neshan Magazine published since 2003 in the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design donated by Neshan Magazine in November 2017.
In this current issue, which is centered on design archives and museums, their prominent role will be discussed. Like the themes of the previous issues, the present issue is an introduction to this subject so that we can provide more detailed discussions in the future issues. This issue and its particular content focuses on the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design, Design Museums in Chicago, Zürich, New York, Amsterdam, and Moscow, and Istanbul’s Museum of Innocence. Meanwhile, the study of the dispersed archive in Iran, the graphic design archive in Royal College of London complement this issue’s theme.
Although the history of the establishment of design museums dates back to more than one century ago, the concept of a “design” museum is still unfamiliar to the public. Today’s museums narrate the stories of the past, while imagining for the future.

Majid Abbasi

is design director of Studio Abbasi active in the international community, based in Tehran and Toronto. He leads a variety of design projects for start-ups, non-profits and educational organizations worldwide. Majid actively contributes to the international design scene as an instructor, jury member, curator and writer. He has been editor-in-chief of Neshan, the leading Iranian graphic design magazine since 2010. Majid has been members of Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS) since 1998 and Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) since 2009.


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