On Saturday April 9th, just as our 40th anniversary festivities were coming to a close, we had the opportunity to meet over 40 returned Moroccan alumni of US exchange programs. These professionals are at all stages of their careers, some are students, some teach and many others work in the private sector or in other areas of Moroccan civil society. They were involved in a variety of projects while in the U.S. and they shared with us some of their aspirations for the future.
Our day began with professor Dale Eickelman of Dartmouth College, who gave a talk titled “New Directions: The Tangier American Legation since 1976”. He spoke about TALIM’s transformation from its inception as a non-profit organization to its work today. The Legation and TALIM are opening up to more community involvement through events and programs. Professor Eickelman unveiled our latest initiative during his talk. The “Legation Scholars” program, developed by TALIM and local partners, aims to provide high school students from the Old Medina of Tangier with English language training and baccalaureate support so that they may pursue higher-level studies in the STEM fields. Many of the Moroccan U.S. alumni present at the talk expressed interest in becoming involved in these kinds of programs, through mentorships and other types of collaboration.
The program continued with Dr. Michael Toler of the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT Libraries (AKDC@MIT). Dr. Toler took us on a journey through the built environment of the Muslim world, as can be seen in Archnet. Beginning with sobering images of war-torn Syria and a reminder of all the global cultural heritage being lost there, his presentation continued to outline other factors that endanger cultural heritage, such as manmade and natural disasters, and even neglect, intentional or unintentional. His talk focused on the historic city of Tangier, a city he holds dear to his heart, and ended by outlining the AKDC@MIT collaboration with TALIM. Images old and new gave us a sense of the transformation the city has undergone over the decades. The Tangier of the future is being built today. Yet even as this rapid transformation occurs, the city is working to preserve and highlight aspects of its history. TALIM’s collaboration with AKDC@MIT is only one part of TALIM’s involvement in these efforts, but it is an important one. The collaboration helps preserve historic visual materials and other media, while simultaneously expanding awareness of the city’s heritage through digital dissemination.
As medina children finished their crafts workshop downstairs in the courtyard, we “grown-ups” ended our festivities with a sunlit brunch on the museum’s terrace. The promise of a brighter tomorrow begins with forging new friendships, and here at TALIM we feel this is what our anniversary celebration was all about.