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MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series: “Digital History: Promoting the Middle East” by Jan van der Crabben and James Blake Wiener

Jan van der Crabben and James Blake Wiener
Jan van der Crabben and James Blake Wiener

“Digital History: Promoting the Middle East” was the first lecture of the 5th MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series. It was presented by Jan van der Crabben, Founder and CEO of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), and James Blake Wiener, its Co-Founder and Communications Director.

Jan started by introducing AHE: a charity registered in the UK and the largest English language, global platform on ancient history, with over 19 million visitors every year. Their mission is that of promoting cultural heritage and enhancing history education worldwide. Jan stressed the key role played by historic awareness in the formation of national identities and how important it is to foster this type of awareness in order to help prevent xenophobia and find common ground for discussion between cultures. The articles published by AHE are all written by volunteer experts who wish to contribute to the Encyclopedia. All other contributions are checked by an editorial team. Funds are usually provided by companies, charities and trusts that deal with history or aim to raise awareness of a specific field of knowledge.

James Blake Wiener took the floor to discuss what cultural heritage is and said that it can be defined as not just the ruins of ancient civilisations but rather as a complex of traditions passed down from one generation to the next. Furthermore, he explained how the Middle East occupies a special place in AHE, as it was the birthplace of cultural diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy refers to the ability of individuals to employ their own culture and the knowledge of other cultures, as a means to overcome differences and avoid confrontation. James also discussed how difficult it can be, in the contemporary Middle East, to rely on digital media for delivery of education, as most countries in the region do not have access to a broadband Internet connection and censorship is very much a problem in teaching subjects regarded as being too “western”.

The lecture concluded with Jan van der Crabben speaking about how digital tools (such as online platforms and apps) will prove very useful for teaching purposes, especially for those people who cannot afford to travel or have direct contact with cultures other than their own. AHE firmly believes in cultural diplomacy and its power to positively affect people from a very young age.

The audience raised a good number of questions about AHE’s values and vision and an interesting discussion followed.
The next presentation of the MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series will be “Dragon’s Blood Island: Socotra and Our Search for Dragons” by National Geographic explorer and BBC presenter Ella Al-Shamahi. For more details, please see our Forthcoming Events.

We look forward to seeing you there!

For further information, please contact:
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