AANM founding director to retire

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — After working eight years — as of May 2013 — at the Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Anan Ameri is ready to try something new.

Ameri, 67, of Ann Arbor, plans to retire as director on May, 15, near the museum’s eighth anniversary on May 5.

During retirement, Ameri plans to write and travel.

“It has been a very long journey and I’m tired,” said Ameri, who helped found the museum in 2005. “I want to slow down and I want to write. I love to do creative writing and I haven’t had a chance to do that for years.”

Ameri plans to continue to work with the museum consulting on a part-time basis and work on major projects.

The AANM is a project of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, a nonprofit cultural and human services organization; the museum is also a Smithsonian-affiliated museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Ameri said she plans to visit her family during her retirement.

“I have family who live all over the world,” Ameri said. “I am the only immigrant in my family and I haven’t had the chance to see them because of the demand of the job. And as you grow older you say ‘I want to do these things before I am too old.’”

Before Ameri, born in Palestine and raised in Jordan, thought about retirement, she was busy getting the AANM’s doors open in the early 2000s. During that time she oversaw everything from exhibit designs to helping develop the museum’s mission, which is to document, preserve and present the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans, according to the AANM website.

The museum is described as the “first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture.”

The museum opened in May 2005 and Ameri took on the position as the AANM’s first director.

Ameri, who did not have museum experience before she became director, said her education, connections and experiences prepared her for the position.

Before her position at the AANM, she held the title of national president and executive director of the Palestine Aid Society, a fundraising and advocacy group for Palestinians, which initially started in Detroit but transferred to Washington, D.C., where she stayed from 1980 to 1993.

Ameri also held the position of interim director of the Institute for Jerusalem Studies, now known as The Institute for Palestine Studies, in East Jerusalem. Before that she studied at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Ameri holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Jordan and a doctorate in sociology from Wayne State University.

“My previous work helped me in a number of ways,” Ameri said. “I have learned that I didn’t have to have a museum background. I learned that I can do anything I want if I am passionate about it.”

While Ameri held the position with PAS, she traveled extensively to different states to learn about the needs and concerns of residents.

“(This position) connected me with the Arab American community nationally,” Ameri said. “I was already established and had some fundraising and organizational skills and scholarly knowledge of the Arab American community. This combination became very helpful to me in establishing and managing the museum.”

Before Ameri headed up the museum she led ACCESS’s cultural arts program as the director in 1997.

ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber said choosing Ameri as the museum’s director was a natural choice and her presence will be missed.thankful for her position.

Jaber said he is in the process of forming a national search committee to find a new director. The week before Thanksgiving he sent out letters to potential search committee members.

“We are hoping to have someone by March,” Jaber said.

Jaber said he posted information about the job across the county and he is looking for someone who held leadership roles in museum management and directing.

“We are looking for someone with a vision or someone who is committed to the mission of educating and promoting arts and cultures,” Jaber said. “We are looking for someone who is respected among his or her peers and someone who can lead.”