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Dubai Moving Image Museum

"Home Theater Systems" as they used to be.

The Dubai Moving Image Museum (DMIM) opened its doors in Tecom (Dubai) in the summer of 2013. Curious about the new establishment we went there to investigate.

Dubai is a city where professionals from the MENA region (Middle East, North Africa) can meet in a common ground. It attracts a bevy of film makers, artists and designers, all of whom play an integral role in shaping the city’s calendar of events. Propelled by the numerous artistic events, and a growing network of contemporary art galleries, the city has experienced a birth of a significant art scene. Within this burgeoning art scene DMIM fits nicely into the city’s ever-growing collection of high-quality permanent exhibitions.

We took a guided tour through DMIM’s exhibition halls and found an amazing collection of cinematic devices. The Dubai Moving Image Museum started as a private collection of Mr Akram Miknas, a product of his over a quarter of a century of gathering of an extensive assemblage of antique machinery and cinematographic toys, with the unifying feature of the collection being “a moving image”. It has since been augmented, but keeping in the spirit of the theme of the original pieces. The items in the museum range from distorting mirrors and shadow-play sets and everything in between. Within the collection are antique curiosities used both for entertainment and scientific purposes. Some of the items even had an impact on the development of modern animation and filming techniques.

Amongst Miknas’s original pieces are: early slide projectors called Magic Lanterns (particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries amongst Phantasmagoria amateurs); stereoscopes (early 3D viewers); peep boxes (known otherwise as peepshows) assembled by hand; mutoscopes (motion picture devices based on simple image flipping system); and all sorts of hand-animated visual toys. The unifying theme of all these gadgets is that they serve to amuse the human eye with moving images and optical tricks.

In DMIM we also uncovered interesting factoids, including that the Arab scientist and philosopher Alhazen, author of the “Book of Optics”contributed to the discovery and understanding of the optics behind the pinhole camera (camera obscura).

Mirror Anamorphosis with Column, Magic Lanterns, Kinora viewer at DMIM

From left to right: Mirror anamorphosis with column, Magic Lanterns, Kinora viewer.

Those familiar with Werner Herzog’s 3D movie, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (with author’s commentary), will no doubt understand where cinematic thinking entered into human culture. According to Herzog, prehistorical abstract rock paintings made by cavemen shine the light on the origin of cinematography: “We should note that… artist[s] painted bison[s] with eight legs, suggesting movement, almost a form of proto-cinema.”  The DMIM exhibition evokes a similar impression of seeing still images being transformed into motion pictures.

DMIM is also home to a collection of  reconstructed machines and meticulously-assembled toys that will entertain everyone regardless of gender, age or artistic background. For example, Kaiserpanorama with hand-coloured slides displayed in a stereoscopic fashion give viewers incredible 3D impressions. As a niche-targeted institution (with a world class collection), DMIM is a positive surprise on many levels. You can even watch an early cat-video (pre-empting Youtube by many decades) made on a Kinora Camera (a flicker device invented by the Lumière brothers).

Roconstructed Kaiserpanorama and Stereoscopes at DMIM

From left to right: Reconstructed kaiserpanorama and stereoscopes.

In short:
The Dubai Moving Image Museum is a must-go for anyone who is into art and cinematography, but also worthy of a visit for any person with a curiosity for technology, or with some time on hand while in Dubai. It is a fantastic exhibit with an extensive collection of historical pieces that pre-date the Lumière brothers. If you go, make sure to book a guided tour — there is a lot to learn, and the whole family/group will be entertained. Museum also has a gift-shop with unique cinematic items for those who want to take a momento of the museum home with them. The DMIM is a true delight in Dubai’s cultural landscape.

Dubai Moving Image Museum,  MCN Hive, Tecom, Dubai, Tel.: +971 4 421 6679 


Below is a documentary about DMIM, courtesy of the museum director Mr. Pierre Patau:

Dubai Moving Image Museum: An Introduction from Karien Mulder on Vimeo.

Big thanks to Mandy Aridi, Museum Manager, who greeted us with a warm welcome. Mandy was helpful and knowledgeable about all details of the exhibition and made our tour pleasant and worth while. 


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