Museums have been fundamental to the rise of nations, including their imperial ambitions as colonizers since the early nineteenth century. More recently, museums have been credited as catalysts of urban renewal and magnets for capital investment. In contemporary discourse, the “Bilbao Effect” speaks of the confluence of elite architectural firms, marketing, and the shifting goals of contemporary museums to propagate their brands and create civic landmarks. The seminar includes close analyses of international institutions, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the National Gallery of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. But at the heart of our investigation of the museum’s role in generating both national identity and economic investment is an extensive study of the effect of soft culture in the Middle East, especially in the development of the Gulf States.