Abdelrahman Othman is curator for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo. He was recently named best curator in Egypt for 2018. For years he’s been spreading history and culture to those who visit the museum. On top of curating he’s also found a way to bring the invaluable museum tour experience into classrooms via Skype. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his background, the museum, and how he’s using Skype in the Classroom to share history with students around the world.
Tell us a little bit about your background and the work you do.
My name is Abdelrahman Othman, curator for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and director of the Department of Community Outreach. The museum’s goal is to build bridges between the museum itself and local and international communities through museum activities, and to use cultural best practices to create a successful learning environment, to which museums contribute significantly.
On top of that, I’m project manager of an initiative called “My Museum in Your Classroom” working with other museum curators who also offer virtual tours in their museums. Our aim to provide educational activities around Egyptian museums, Egyptian archaeological sites, and educational institutions in and outside Egypt, removing borders and obstacles for education. We use Skype in the Classroom for this project.
What is your favorite aspect of connecting with classrooms over Skype?
My favorite part of this work is communicating with Egyptian and international educational institutions, where I feel like I’m a complement to a teacher’s role within the classroom. I can make an impact on the lives of students. Through the museum I can change some of the perceptions students have and provide them with valuable new information, which might even affect the way they learn.
In what way do you see your work having an impact the world?
Of course, the nature of my work can be very important to Egyptian culture both in the near term and in the long run. Through my work as director of the Department of Community Outreach, I can offer museum-goers and students alike unique insights into the Egyptian civilization spanning many historical periods—and with Skype I can bring museum experiences to anyone in the world at little cost.
On a Skype call, I can bring Egyptian history into your classroom, wherever you are, and this experience is trending in classrooms all over of the world. Even students in small villages who are studying Egypt within their curriculum can have this experience. And if, for any variety of reasons, these students cannot go to Egypt to see what they are studying, I can be that link for them, in an entertaining way.
Where did you get the idea to use Skype in your line of work?
The idea to use Skype for tours began when I joined Skype in the Classroom. I could create a virtual tour for anyone’s use within this application since it’s such a high quality virtual communication tool.
Skype allows me to create virtual tours of the halls of the museum and bring these halls to an endless number of educational institutions around the world. Additionally, this helps with marketing and promoting the museum as well as archaeological sites.
In fact, I didn’t know the importance of this wonderful application until I subscribed to the Microsoft Educator Community. It gave me the opportunity to communicate with educational institutions in and outside Egypt in a simple and easy way—without the technical difficulties that often hinder communication tools. Now that I do all my virtual tours of the museum through Skype, I feel like it’s become part of my life!
We see from your photos that you are using the latest mobile version of Skype. What features do you enjoy?
I like the image and file sharing feature. Classrooms are always asking for pictures from our virtual tours. I take snapshots during the walking tours, and I can share them with the class. The Gallery feature also makes finding the images simple and easy.
What do students around the world enjoy most about your tours?
They love seeing and recognizing elements from the Egyptian civilization they’ve studied, all the artifacts and eras. They can see the pyramids, Tutankhamun, the tomb of Ramses II, the royal mummies, and Amro Abnelass Mosque—and a lot of the Egyptian museums!
Where can people learn more about what you are doing at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization?
Microsoft offers a window into our program with Skype in the Classroom, where one can publish tours and promote them through a large database featuring millions of users from more than 145 countries around the world. You can coordinate between educators and guest speakers via the contact details they provide. This coordination ultimately helps educational tours like ours succeed.
The four largest museums in Egypt participate in this project—the National Museum for Egyptian Civilization, Egyptian Museum of Liberation, Coptic Museum, and Museum of Islamic Art (and recently the Sadat Museum, which is part of the Library of Alexandria, joined the initiative). Each museum has an activity page that tells briefly about their history (the speakers for these museums are fully accredited), and we have made virtual tours for each museum, so people can experience this project fully. We have found it’s greatly popular both in and outside Egypt.
We love hearing how you use Skype technology to spread culture and enhance knowledge and understanding. Tell us your story by tagging @Skype on social media—and we might even feature you.
Educators: Request a virtual visit to one of our partner museums from around the world to delve into stories about the museum’s collections and uncover history.