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NAMES Initiation Meeting

30 Jan 2006

On 30 January 2006, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), through the Planetarium Science Center (PSC), organized the first meeting to discuss with similar regional institutions the establishment of a network of science centers and museums in the North Africa and Middle East. Seven regional institutions representing six countries, in addition to two European institutions, participated in the meeting, which aimed to explore the status—experiences and challenges—of science communication endeavors within the region, and investigate means of collaboration with the purpose of maximizing our collective knowledge, expertise, and progress.

During the meeting, participants discussed the name of the network, the allocation of the secretariat office, the statutes, the logo design, as well as the website. At the time, less than five centers had been established in the region, all of them having opened to the public within the first few years of the millennium; several other projects and initiatives were in progress to establish similar institutions in various countries.

Later in 2006, NAMES was officially founded by 5 Founding Members:

  1. The Planetarium Science Center, Egypt
  2. The Scientific Center of Kuwait
  3. Tunis Science City, Tunisia
  4. Turkey Science Centers Foundation
  5. Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Science and Technology Center (SciTech), KSA

Brief Background

Science museums featuring collections of objects have existed for a few decades, but science centers, the exhibits of which are interactive and aimed at educating through hands-on experience, have only been introduced in the 20th century. Some of the first major such institutions—not called science centers at that time—include: the Deutsches Museum, Munich (1903); the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (1933); and the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia (1934).

Founded in 1973, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)—a non-profit, global organization based in Washington, D.C., USA—has been the first network of its type to be established. Science centers that opened their doors in Western Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s took inspiration from the North American interactive science-technology centers movement and the idea to create a network to facilitate co-operation among European science centers emerged in 1988 during an ASTC conference. The formal birth of the European Collaborative for Science, Industry, and Technology Exhibitions (Ecsite) as an international non-profit organization under Belgian jurisdiction followed in 1991.

Regional networks to follow suit include the Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centers (ASPAC), the network for popularization of science and technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (RedPOP), and the Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centers (SAASTEC). Together with NAMES, the regional networks form the International Program Committee responsible for the organization of the Science Centers World Congress/Summit, the first of which took place in 1996.

For more information about our Sister Networks, follow this link.