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LUCAS on a trip to NIMAR in Morocco

It was more than two years in the making, but despite the delays, giving up was not an option. In May, eighteen staff members of LUCAS and the Faculty of Archaeology visited NIMAR.

The idea for LUCAS to visit the institute in Morocco came from Academic Director Sybille Lammes. ‘I first heard about NIMAR when I was appointed as AD,’ she says. ‘I immediately thought it was interesting. LUCAS mostly focuses on Europe, but Europe has a blend of many other cultures as well. A visit to NIMAR seemed the perfect opportunity for us to learn how this interculturality works.’

NIMAR director Léon Buskens was immediately enthusiastic when Lammes contacted him about the idea. NIMAR has a national mission. ‘We enjoy working with all our colleagues from the Netherlands, but LUCAS’ interest aligns particularly well with our priorities such as migration and museum and heritage studies,’ he explains. ‘We’d like to strengthen our collaboration in all these areas, in order for NIMAR to become a fruitful workplace for even more colleagues and students from Leiden University in areas that aren’t usually associated with Morocco. This also helps to decolonise knowledge.’

‘Amazingly intense’

That is why the trip got the go-ahead. After a few members of the Faculty of Archaeology joined in, the first plans were made. ‘We asked all the participants about their interests and any activities they wanted to do in Morocco,’ research coordinator Elise Alberts says. ‘We built the programme based on that.’ It resulted in a trip filled with visits to archaeological excavation sites, museums, a synagogue and the University of Rabat. ‘It was super intense but in an amazing way,’ Lammes summarises. ‘It took a while for all the impressions to sink in, but it was clear we wanted to continue doing this.’

Next steps

‘By now, concrete plans for the future have been made. There will be a follow-up trip with Sybille and a smaller group in the autumn to continue working on their project about games and heritage,’ says Buskens. ‘Esther op de Beek is going to help NIMAR strengthen the Dutch presence at the next book fair, and we’re going to collaborate with Pieter ter Keurs in the field of museum studies. We’re also going to see if we can develop an exhibition on the borders of the Roman Empire.’

Broader collaborations are also in the works, although these may take a bit longer. ‘We might seek to have the bigger ideas financed by funds and grants,’ Alberts explains. This is not an issue for Lammes. As far as she is concerned, the collaboration will be a long-term project anyway. ‘I’d like to set up activities that allow us to have more reciprocity, by using knowledge that is not only Western and having students and lecturers who are not only from the West. That way LUCAS can really represent Europe and its versatility, but I realise that’s a long process.’

The first participants have evaluated the trip. Some of the reactions:

'For me the most important thing was to get the cooperation between NIMAR and the Leiden base a bit out of the archeology bubble and to involve topics that connect more intensely to the LUCAS expertise.' Frans-Willem Korsten

'A great connecting trip with several institutions, the university, museums and other cultural institutions. As a (partly) Africanist, and an anthropologist, I was surprised and amazed about how incredibly connected Morocco is to West and Central Africa.' Hugo DeBlock

'As a member of the LUCAS delegation at NIMAR, my experience and impressions are extremely positive. Despite the variety of my colleagues’ background , possible synergies can be envisioned.' Annachiara Raia

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