A temporary exhibition at Bahrain National Museum

Designed 40 years ago by the Danish architecture firm, KHR Arkitekter, the Bahrain National Museum quietly resides at the water’s edge in Manama, Bahrain’s capital. Three stone cubical structures hold the country’s rich archaeological history focusing on the Dilmun civilisation, though the galleries also cover the country's most recent history.

Nestled amid this is their temporary exhibitions gallery. The current exhibition looks at ancient burial grounds, which has a look and feel that sits somewhere in between an Urs Fischer fine art installation and the inside of an archaeologist’s mind. Fitting the known 350,000 graves into a single display is not exactly the easiest feat of interpretive engineering, but the approach taken by the museum works beautifully, and gracefully. Large mounds of sand, stones and large rocks humbly sit in between displays of 5,000-year-old ceramics, inviting visitors to explore the interiors of what these sites looked and felt like through the artefacts that were buried alongside the country’s ancestors. Whilst visitors are not able to touch, the mere ability to walk into, or over, a chamber offers a sensory overload that speaks volumes – the dust, the smell, the shadows… perhaps the next best thing to being the archaeologist who discovered the burial mounds years ago.

This feature was written by Eleanor Suggett, a Senior Consultant at Barker Langham. She works across the Barker Langham portfolio with current focus on our Middle East projects and specialises in curation and interpretation.