Following a comprehensive international search, the leadership of ACCESS – the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the United States – proudly welcomes to their Arab American National Museum (AANM) a new director, Diana Abouali.
At home in both North America and the Middle East, fluent in English and Arabic, Abouali has worked in the higher education, cultural heritage and museum sectors in the U.S., Palestine and Jordan. She will begin her tenure as AANM director on April 1.
"We are confident that with Diana's impressive background and innovative outlook, she is the best choice to lead our Arab American National Museum," says Hassan Jaber, ACCESS executive director and chief executive officer. "We at ACCESS are all excited to work with Diana to help the Museum deliver on its mission of telling the story of Arab Americans."
Abouali brings a deep educational background and a wide range of significant experience to the role. She was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Palestinian parents, and completed her primary and secondary education in Kuwait. Abouali went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Economics and History from Wellesley College, and at Harvard University, she received her Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies and a PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies. From 2004 to 2012, Abouali taught at Dartmouth College, first as lecturer then as assistant professor, offering courses in Arab-Islamic civilization, gender studies, the social history of the Middle East and Arabic language.
After 22 years in the U.S., Abouali traded the mountains of New Hampshire for the hills of Ramallah, Palestine, when she moved there to work as head of research and collections at the newly-established Palestinian Museum (which opened to the public in 2016 in Birzeit). Relocating to Amman, Jordan, in 2014, she worked as director of education, outreach and awareness at the Petra National Trust and later as a senior consultant for Turquoise Mountain in Jordan.
She was project manager at Tiraz: Widad Kawar Home for Arab Dress on an AHRC-ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund (UK) project, in cooperation with Plymouth University and the Information and Research Center-King Hussein Foundation, which studied the resilience of male Syrian artisan refugees in Jordan. In that position, she co-produced a bilingual training program and toolkit in social-enterprise creation as a way to preserve cultural heritage. She has organized and delivered cultural heritage education workshops to Syrian children and women in the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps, and she occasionally teaches college-level courses in the U.S. and Jordan.
Diana Abouali becomes the third director of AANM, following its founding director, Anan Ameri, who joined ACCESS in 1997, opened the Museum in 2005 and retired in 2013, and Devon Akmon, the former curator of community history and deputy director who led the Museum from 2013 through 2018.
"Despite its short 13-year history, AANM has become a national treasure and a source of great pride for all Arab Americans, and I attribute the credit to its highly dedicated staff and former directors. I am delighted and confident that Dr. Abouali will lead AANM into still greater stature and national impact," says Dr. Fawwaz T. Ulaby, chair of the Museum's National Advisory Board and Emmett Leith Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science/Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.