NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 41


The Archipelago of Graphic Design Museums in Iran

Ali Bakhtiari

Today’s museums are the results of the enlightenment movement of the eighteenth century. From this viewpoint, museums are in charge of collecting, preserving, restoring and studying the artistic, cultural, historical, and scientific objects and artifacts in their historical contexts and spreading the knowledge of these works. 

The Conception of Iranian Museums
The institution of the first official museums in Iran (such as the establishment of the National Museum of Iran in 1937) and the transformation of palaces into museums date back to the first Pahlavi era and reflect the modernist approaches of their time. In the 1960s and 1970s, important museums such as the Negarestan Museum, Reza Abbasi Museum, Sanatizadeh Museum (Kerman), Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts and the Carpet Museum were added to the group of new Iranian museums with the spread of Iranian identity-seeking viewpoint and the expansion of the petrol-based economy. 

The Necessity of Foundation of Graphic Museums
The graphic design works are kept by the designers, or are kept in the archives of customers or are stored in personal collections or museums. Many museums also fail to consider these publicly acclaimed works due to their academic structures and only collect and exhibit works that either have high art credentials or are dated precisely. However, the public graphic design is highly important in cultural studies. 
During the years of inexistence of the Museum of Graphic Design, many foundations, institutions, and personal collections were collecting and keeping the Iranian graphic design documents and works due to the nature of their jobs or their standards, and the idealistic and symbolic juxtaposition of these archives would create the archipelago of the Iranian graphic design museums.

May 1971, the Birth of the First Island of the Archipelago
The very first attempts were the curating of the “50 Years of Iranian Graphics Exhibition” in Mehr Shah Gallery in May 1971 and the “Iranian Poster Art Exhibition” in Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 1977 by Morteza Momayez. A book titled “50 Years of Iranian Graphics” describes the historical, non-judgmental and museum-oriented approach of Momayez regardless of the qualitative values of this collection.

The Cinema Museum and National Film Archive: The Completion of the Archipelago
The National Film Archive, which was originally established as the “Film Center” in 1959 by Farokh Qafari, has since 1984 enforced an amendment to the law on the storage of film copies, which required the producers to submit 5 copies of the posters of film and a number of scene photographs to the National Film Archive. The archives stored in the “Supervision and Evaluation Administration” and the “Production Administration” were also transferred to this archive when this departments were dissolved. These archives contain numerous posters and photos of the pre-revolutionary productions. With the constant collection of the film posters and completion of the pre-revolutionary film poster collection, the collection of the National Film Archive turned into one of the important sources of research on cinematic graphic design. This archive, which is mainly digitized, has been used several times as a source of reference in many theses and exhibitions.

The poster and documents archive of the Cinema Museum is another important source of research on modern and contemporary Iranian graphic design, which is being completed by the works donated by the practitioners of this field to the museum and the purchase of the remaining parts for the collection. The primary characteristic of this archive is the diversity of the graphic design works (including posters, newspaper notices, brochures, and advertisements, animation cells, and movie banners). This archive, which has been built up since 1996, contains one of the most important sources of cultural studies that suit graphic design. This archive is mainly kept in the digital format and is displayed to the public in various exhibitions. Numerous books have also been written on this archive, which are available to the researchers.

Children are completing the collection of graphic museums!
The “Child Museum” of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults is, in fact, a massive archive of the productions of this institute, which was launched in 2000. This museum, which has been an important professional center for graphic design studies and one the most active and productive cultural centers in Iran since the 1960s, is of considerable visual importance. In addition to the museum run by this institute, the archive of the Institute for the Study of the History of Children's Literature and the archive of the Children’s Book Council complete the collection of the graphic design museums in the field of children’s and adolescents’ visual and cultural productions. 

The Trace of Revolution and War in the Archipelago
The Martyrs Museum, the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s Documents Center, and the archive of the Art Division of the Islamic Propagation Organization are among the extremely important centers for studies in the graphic design of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Moreover, the National Library and Astan Quds Razavi Library are among the major centers for the preservation of documents and books that offer graphic readability. The centers have published many sources research from the archives and thus they are more than just passive archive centers.

The Role of Personal Attempts in the Enrichment of Graphic Design Archives
In the past years, along with these centers, some people have similar to museums independently contributed to the collection, investigation, and publication of graphic archives out of their historical concerns and interests. 
Parviz Tanavoli was one of the very first people who has been collecting and preserving a massive collection of public and religious graphic designs of Iran and has used the archives in plenty of articles and books. As regards cinematic graphic design, the archives collected by the late Ahmad Jourqanian, Abulfadl Qahremani, Masoud Mehrabi, and Ali Bakhtiari (the author) are among the major cinematic graphic design archives. Reza Abedini and Arash Tanhai were also among the designers who introduced the importance of collecting archives into the graphic design culture and have separately provided substantial collections of historical graphic designs. The StudioKargah project managed by Peyman Pour Hosein and Aria Kasai contains one of the biggest archives of the history of Iranian graphic design, and he has published books and has held many exhibitions on the basis of these archives. The “Bread and Salt” projects managed by Yashar Samiyi Mofakham and Tarlan Rafiee have been mainly focused on the collection and investigation of the graphic design archives.

The Birth of the Graphic Design Museum and a View of the Future 
However, the museum of graphic design was not established before 2014. In January 2015, the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design was established by transferring the great archive of the Iranian Graphic Design Association to Arbab Hormoz Qajarid Mansion in Tehran. This museum was founded following years of continuous attempts of the members of this association, and the goal was ultimately achieved in collaboration with Tehran Municipality. However, this museum is still in the early experimental stages of its genesis, and although it houses a massive collection of the contemporary graphic design works and tools donated by graphic designers, it still lacks many of the primary mechanisms (e.g. publications, permanent/curated exhibitions) of a museum. 

Given the ease of use of the digital technologies, it is necessary to set up at least a rich archive of all of the existing works and many unknown possible collections in the form of a digital museum in the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design to provide an easier and more comprehensive research platform and correct historical errors and set the scene for the development of the Iranian graphic history in an organic sound context. 

Ali Bakhtiari

is a Tehran based curator focused on cultural studies and modern and contemporary art. He collaborated with many international museums and centers such as Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, British Museum, Museo MAXXI and Centre Georges Pompidou. He founded ABBookness project in 2011 which is the first Middle Eastern project collaborating with artist on publication of Artist Books. ABBookness already publishe d works of artists such as Farideh Lashai, Parviz Tanavoli, Parvaneh Etemadi and Ali Akbar Sadeghi.

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