The Library of Congress houses, preserves, collects and makes accessible numerous valuable and historical materials from across the globe in different languages, forms and subjects, this includes a noteworthy collection of rare Persian language materials. This collection is part of the “African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division” and includes various rare materials of early print books, lithographic books and manuscripts.
According to the Library of Congress most materials in this collection was acquired in 1930s through a well-known dealer in fine Islamic and Near Eastern arts, Kirkor Minassian. This acquisition includes rare manuscripts and books in Arabic, Persian, Armenian and Turkish language, however the rare Persian language collection grew beyond Minassain acquisitions as the library continued to acquire more materials from other sources as well as to receive rare collections in a form of donation from generous people.
This collection consists of materials in different subject and disciplines from the entire Middle East. However, literary works and historical lithographs makes up for much of the collection.
“A number of these items are exquisitely illuminated anthologies of poetry by classic and lesser known poets, written in fine calligraphic styles, and illustrated with miniatures. Many also have beautiful bindings. A number of the illuminated books are multilingual works, which include Arabic and Turkish passages in addition to Persian, focusing on scientific, religious – philosophical and literary topics, and others are holy books important to all confessional traditions within the Islamic world.”
In 2014 in an exhibition, called “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” that was held by The Library’s Near East Section, 40 items of rare Persian collection were shown to the public, this exhibition led to a digitization project in 2015. As a result of this ongoing project up until now 169 lithographs of the Collection are digitized and made available.
This beautifully organized collection can be accessed here. Each record provides access to a digitized format of the item as well as a description about the item such as a physical account, bibliographic information and when available summary of the content.
In addition to the abovementioned collection, Library of Congress also provided to a large collection of Arabic script calligraphy sheets from 9th to 19th century. 373 calligraphy sheets can be browsed online which mainly consist of fragments of Quran written on paper or parchment.
Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) of art and design’s collection contains over 2.3 million objects showcasing 5000 years of human art and creativity. The Museum’s collection consists of UK’s national as well as international collections. These collections contain wide range of resources for learning, research and study of various topics such as: architecture, book arts, sculpture, Asian art and design and etc.
Since the beginning of the V&A in 1850’s and when Queen Victoria laid the first stone of the Museum in 1899, Museum’s mission has been to provide tools and ways of learning and engaging with their collection. Moreover, building an excellent collection with global relevance and attracting international audiences and collections has always been part of their mission; therefore, V&A collected various outstanding resources and examples of human art and creativity from around the world.
In that regard, the V&A houses a great collection of Islamic art, which holds more than 19000 artifacts and items from early Islamic era to early twentieth century from Middle East and North Africa. This great collection usually can be visited in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, however, now that due to COVID-19 situation the Gallery is closed, the highlight of this collection is accessible digitally and can be found here.
This very well organized collection also provides exclusive information about the item’s history, place, date, material, techniques that were used in creation of the objects.
V&A Museum has a rich collection of South Asian artifacts which is described as: “The collections from South and South-East Asia comprise nearly 60,000 objects, including about 10,000 textiles and 6,000 paintings covering the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The range of the collection is immense.”
Calligraphy as an astonishing form of Islamic Art also made its way to V&A collection and can be visited here, also at the end of the page a slideshow of different objects of the collection featuring beautiful work of calligraphy from different style, era and techniques.
Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy was on display in the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) from February 8th to March 13th, 2020. The library closure and service disruptions, caused by Covid-19, made the exhibition inaccessible to our students, professors and visitors. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the exhibition, featured calligraphers, the ISL calligraphy panels collection and two events organized in conjunction with the exhibition.
Arabic calligraphy is one of the most recognizable forms of Islamic Art. While originally used to preserve the Word of God (Qur’an), Arabic calligraphy also appeared in other written texts (philosophy, literature and poetry). It further developed to represent figurative depictions and decorations that were uncommon in Islamic Art. Distinct scripts and styles like Kufic, Naskh, Raqaa, Diwani, Thuluth or Nastaliq flourished across the Muslim world often unified by specific common principles. Major elements of the Arabic script such as fluid lines and ornamentation offer contemporary calligraphers the flexibility to create a free-form twist on classic techniques, repositioning calligraphy for today’s context.
This exhibition brought together a new wave of calligraphy artists from various corners of the world united by the art of writing and the desire to break through barriers, tell a story and reach other cultures.
Massoudy chooses a word from the chosen quote and recreates it in much larger dimensions, with its straight lines and its curves and a new geometrical structure. Then, he writes the whole sentence underneath or on the side.
He is the great master of Calligraphy, praiser of the divine word. All the routes of the Mediterranean and the Middle East meet in the qalam of Ghani Alani, without contrast. His writing is not of dualities, but of harmony.
The master calligrapher, who has made the ancient Arabic tradition evolve from its religious roots, is creating deeply intellectual work that reflects his interest in modern poetry and literature, alongside Christian and Sufi philosophy.
Mahdaoui’s work inspired by Arabic calligraphy is remarkably innovative as the aesthetic dimension of letters brings forth a sense of the poetic, highly rhythmic, arresting us with its rich abstracts compositions.
Karaduman considers calligraphy art as a drawing science in aesthetical terms and conducts research and examinations in this field. He completed approximately 50 Holy Korans, verses and hilye-i sharifs by renovating, revising and imitating artworks of which some belong to calligraphy masters.
Zenderoudi has a superb style arising from juxtaposition and simultaneous use of freedom of Western modern art and the power of decorative and visual elements of the Oriental and Iranian traditions.
ISL Calligraphy Collection
A wealth of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy titles were on display and were available for browsing. Now, these titles can be can be found via the McGill library catalog. In addition to the circulating collection, the McGill Islamic Studies Library has a permanent digital exhibit Arabic/Islamic Calligraphy displaying a selection of dry black and white calligraphy and colorful illuminated pieces dating from the 10th to the 19th century.
The ISL hosted two events following the launch of Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibit.
Calligraphy workshop with Mehdi Sharifi
Mehdi Sharifi is a trained calligrapher who masters a number of calligraphic methods. In January 2008, he was awarded the Best Momtaz Degree from the Iranian Calligraphers Association. In the workshop, he exhibited some of his artistic works, and demonstrated different methods for writing Nastaliq. The workshop was well attended. Participants had the chance to see firsthand various calligraphy tools and papers used in Calligraphy art. Almost everyone left with a souvenir from the calligrapher ( individual name written in calligraphic style).
A presentation by Dr. Hela Zahar, entitled Modulations du calligraffiti arabe & tensions arabo-occidentales
Dr. Hela Zahar is the director of the Lavallois Centre for Higher Education in Digital Arts and Creative Economics. Multidisciplinary, Zahar is a practitioner in calligraphy and digital arts, a teacher and researcher in urban and digital culture. Recipient of the INRS “Best Doctoral Thesis” Award (2018) and the “Cust of the Jury” Award – 5th Gala of Excellence, Maghreb Congress in Quebec (CMQ): The Way of Success (2017).
This fascinating and original talk was based on Dr Zahar’s PhD thesis defended in 2018 at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (Université du Québec, Montréal). Her thesis analyzed “the political implications (…) of Arabic calligraffiti, a form of urban art that is inspired both by graffiti and Arabic calligraphy” in both Arab and Western cities. After conducting a digital and physical ethnography of calligraffiti that developed in Montreal, Paris, and some Tunisian cities between 2008 and 2017, Zahar examined the “various conflicts and power relations, such as Arab-Western tensions in the visual culture of Western cities, tensions around the religious role of Islamic calligraphy in Arab cities, tensions around urban art in all cities, and around the various digital spaces where these works are disseminated.”
The Beyond words: dancing letters in Islamic calligraphy exhibition was curated by Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) and Senior Library Assistants, Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian and Samah Kasha.
Ten years ago, the first items from the Islamic Studies Library (ISL) collection located in Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) were digitized. Over the years, the Islamic Studies Library and Digital Initiatives (DI) have developed a strong link, and the history of this decade-long collaboration is worth sharing with our community. This continuous teamwork resulted in launching multiple digital exhibitions, an Internet Archive ISL Collection and various research projects.
Digital Exhibitions and Collections
The first collaboration, Beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise, started with a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library from November 1st, 2010 to March 31st 2011. The Calligraphy panels came from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC. The physical exhibition included sixteen items representing various styles of Arabic calligraphy: from dry black and white calligraphy of the 10th century to colorful illuminated pieces of the 19th century, all of which recounted a brief history of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_calligraphy/index.php.
The second collaboration, The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, also started as a physical display in the Islamic Studies Library, from April 1st to October 31st, 2011. Here again, the physical exhibition included sixteen Shahnameh folios coming from McGill University’s Rare Books and Special Collections and the Islamic Studies Library holdings located in RBSC. Shahnameh by Ferdowsi offered the visitor an opportunity to experience some of the heroes and villains of this remarkable epic poem and to gather a diverse overview of this celebrated text as well as the magnificence of Persian painting. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/shahnameh/index.php.
The third collaboration, Arabic Lithographed Books, drew upon selections from Arabic lithographed books. The collection was on display in the Islamic Studies Library between February 1st and September 30th 2014, and later formed the basis for the Islamic Lithographs digital collection. Since then, the digitization of Islamic lithographs at McGill has become a work in progress, and the resulting digital collection a continually updated resource. This Collection includes many examples of lithographed books in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu, dated from the eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century showcasing different calligraphic styles, graphic designs, and publishing houses from the Muslim world and Europe. Items from the Islamic Lithographs digital collection were the first to be uploaded to the Islamic Studies Library Internet Archives collection. The Digital Exhibit: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/islamic_lithographs/.
Exhibits photo credit: Klaus Fiedler
Since 2014, an increasing number of digitized materials from the ISL’s various collections have become accessible on Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more. Digital Initiatives uploads digitized materials twice a year. This unique collaboration began with 395 items and today includes digital copies of well over 1279 Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Urdu manuscripts, lithographs and rare books from the ISL collection. The materials can be viewed and browsed using the Internet Archive book reader, or downloaded in PDF format. The RSS feed feature of the Internet Archive website offers the opportunity to stay informed of new additions to our collection. Internet Archives Islamic Studies Collection : https://archive.org/details/mcgilluniversityislamicstudies
On demand digitization
Among the first to use this service were two faculty members from the Institute of Islamic studies; Professors F. Jamil Ragep and Robert Wisnovsky selected around 30 manuscripts from the ISL collection and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine collection to be digitized for a joint research project. (Rational Science in Islamic (RASI) project: https://islamsci.mcgill.ca/RASI/). In general, items for personal or scholarly use can be submitted for approval to be digitized by consulting McGill University’s on demand digitization service. Digitized items become available online in full in accordance with Canadian Copyright Law.
Behind the scenes: Digitization at the Library (Video)
A short video created in December 2019 highlights the meticulous work that takes place at Digitization and Digital Initiatives. The Library’s digitization service captures and provides access to millions of pages and objects from the vast and varied collections of McGill Libraries. This service is now even more important and essential during this unprecedented period of remote instruction and library online services.
Blog post editors: Anaïs Salamon, Head Librarian, Dr. Charles Fletcher, Head Library Clerk, and Greg Houston, Digital Initiatives
Palestinian Journeys is a collaborative project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies. The Palestinian Museum is an independent institution founded in 1997 by the Taawon Welfare Association with the goal of promoting a dynamic vision of Palestinian culture engaged with new perspectives on history, society and culture. The Institute for Palestine Studies is an independent not-for-profit research institution founded in 1963 to document Palestine and and publish ground-breaking scholarship on historical and contemporary Palestine.
The platform is discoverable via two main entries accessible from the left-hand side of the screen: the “Timeline,” and the “Stories.
The Timeline, “an ever-growing encyclopedic collection of historical events, biographies, themed chronologies”. Originally created by he Institute for Palestine Studies, it aims at highlighting historical, socioeconomic and cultural themes, relying on historical documents, and multimedia content. From within the timeline, various categories are available:
Thematic Chronologies browsable either by subject ( Colonization, Diplomatic, Institutional, Legal, Policy/Program, Sanctions, Violence) or by date
Highlights pointing to significant events subdivided by subject (Biographical, Colonization, Contextual, Cultural, Diplomatic, Institutional, Legal, Policy/Program, Popular Action, Sanctions, Socioeconomic, Violence)
Biographies sub-divided by profession (Artists, Businessmen and Economists, Clerics, Educators, Feminist Figures, Journalists, Poets, Political Leaders, Politicians, Revolutionaries and Activists, Scholars and Historians, Trade Unionists, Writers and Novelists)
Documents sub-divided by type (Chart, Illustration, Map, Photograph, Text)
The Stories section, a continually updated collection of Palestinian testimonies and accounts, is an original creation of the Palestinian Museum. It aims at making widely available “marginalized and forgotten narratives about the Palestinian experience, highlighting unknown stories, personal accounts, oral histories, and undiscovered experiences” and “emphasizes how the Palestinian people took part in forging their own history. ” The Stories can be filtered either by theme (Arts & Culture, Economy, Society, War & Resistance, Women) or by by period:
Early Mandate Period
Second Mandate Period
The Palestine War and the Nakba
Reverberation of 1948 Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
The Rise of the Palestinian Movement in the Wake of the 1967 Arab Defeat
From a Sense of Victory to separate Peace and civil War
Palestinian Defeat, Division and Survival
The first Intifada and the beginning of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
The Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority
The Aqsa Intifada and the end of an Era in Palestinian Politics
A Palestinian Authority divided, Israeli Assaults on Gaza and Peace process Setbacks.
In addition, an “Inspire me” category allows visitors to discover the Palestinian Journeys through a selection of marking moments, events, and characters, and a search feature allows visitors to focus on a specific event or theme they are interested in.
A short description including source is available for each document, and sometimes related content is suggested:
If in the face this pandemic you are staying home and have more time on your hands,If despite all this you are still passionate about culture, art and history, If you too believe that art, culture and cultural heritage should be accessible toeveryone as much as possible, If you were looking for an opportunity tocontribute for a good cause, But more importantly, If you can translate fromEnglish to Arabic, then this post is probably for you.
Mueseum With No Frontier (MWNF) has launched a campaign to have more of their museum and exhibitions related content translated into Arabic, in order to give greater access to art and culture to more people from around the world.
“We are in need of support to translate more of our database to Arabic so those in Arab countries and beyond can access our online Explore Islamic Art Collections and other exhibitions.”
MWNF was founded as an independent non-profit organization in 1995 on the initiative of Eva Schubert. MWNF program is a collaboration between public and private partners from all over the world and its main activities consist of “MWNF Virtual Museum and related MWNF Galleries and the MWNF Exhibition Trails and related books and travel program.”
MuseumWNF is determined to link cultures via a diversified knowledge of history, heritage and culture encourage practicing peaceful coexistence. Moreover, part of their mandate is cooperation with the Arab world and promoting Islamic art.
“Contributing to better knowledge of Arab countries and cooperating with Arab partners on educational and cultural tourism projects has been an MWNF priority since its foundation. Since 2010 MWNF has had a partnership with the League of Arab States to promote awareness of the Arab world’s history and cultural legacy through joint projects.”
Using a mix of drawings, photographs, plans and maps, publications, and video, this online exhibition takes you through the history of the building since its construction in 1882: from Presbyterian College, to war hospital, to offices for the International Labour Organization during WWII, to a house for McGill University departments.
Foundation page of the online exhibition, 2019.
Expansion page of the online exhibition, 2019.
Interruption page of the online exhibition, 2019.
Renovation page of the online exhibition, 2019.
The original display was curated by y Ghazaleh Ghanavizchian (Senior Library Clerk, ISL), Jillian Mills (Senior Library Clerk, ISL) and Anaïs Salamon (Head Librarian, ISL) with the help of Gregory Houston (New Media & Digitization Administrator, Digital Initiatives) for the creation of the Touch Table exhibit.
This online version is the result of a School of Information Studies practicum student -Gabriela Cestero-‘s work in the Winter 2019, with the support of Ekaterina Grguric (User Experience and Digital Technologies Librarian, Digital Initiatives) and Gregory Houston (New Media & Digitization Administrator, Digital Initiatives).
Full page screenshot of the “Foundation” page, 2019.
Love and devotion: from Persia and beyond is an online exhibit that celebrates the beauty of Persian manuscripts and the stories of human and divine love told through their pages from the early 11th century on.
Love and devotion showcases a rich selection of manuscripts from the world-renowned collection of the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, along with rare works from the State Library of Victoria and other Australian collections.
The exhibit is divided into four main topics: Persian poets, Stories and poems, Persia’s cultural sphere, and European interactions.
Persian poets includes the life and the work of significant poets like Nizami, Attar, Firdausi, Hafiz, Jami and many more.
Stories and poems retells epic stories and masterpieces that have been told over the centuries in the Persian world.
Persia’s cultural sphere explains how Persia’s strong culture of poetry and the book arts was adopted by Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India.
European interactions discovesr how Persian poetry intersected with European culture.
Multimedia section includes audio recordings of Persian poetry readings and video recordings of past conferences that address the theme of Love and devotion.
Education provides curriculum- based guides for exploring Persian stories and culture in the classroom., in addition to activities and resources.
Additional features are available, such as interactive map, image gallery, how to read a manuscript and glossary.
Discover Islamic Art is an initiative of the Museum With No Frontiers in collaboration with 14 countries from around the Mediterranean. Islamic objects, monuments and historical sites from the northern, southern and eastern shores are brought together in a virtual museum; to complete the collection, relevant Islamic items from museums in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom are included as well.
“The exploration of the history and art of Islam in the Mediterranean aims to create a more complete knowledge of the historical relationship between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and to make this information accessible to the general public in the countries represented in the consortium and beyond. The consortium’s aim is to promote deeper understanding between the peoples of Europe and their Muslim communities and the Islamic world on their doorsteps, and ultimately to celebrate the contribution of Islamic civilisation to world culture and art.”
Objects and monuments in the Permanent Collection can be sorted by country, period/dynasty, partner or date. Sorting by country provides related content such as timeline that ranges from 400 A.D.to 2000 A.D.
In the Database, different categories like location, provenance, architect/artist/Master, Materials/Technique can be selected while entering the search criteria. Date range and language will narrow down the search. Glossary and spelling feature facilitate getting the correct spelling of the transliterated Arabic terms used in the database.
Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean exhibition is set up with the support of the European Union. The virtual exhibition groups objects, monuments and historical sites under dynasties or themes. A download option is available once you start exploring the topic.
The story began in the fall and early winter of 2011-12, when Linda Komaroff, Curator and Department Head at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), decided to pursue an acquisition of a period room from eighteenth-century Damascus, Syria. Komaroff is one of the people who makes LACMA a very unique institution. In Unframed post titled Preserving Small Piece of Damascus, Komaroff describes the new acquisition:
The Damascus Room came to signify more than the unique opportunity to acquire a rare work of art that would become a destination for museum visitors but the very embodiment of what LACMA is as an encyclopedic art museum. Although the room was removed from Syria nearly thirty-five years ago, the notion that we would be helping to preserve a small part of the cultural history of one of the world’s oldest, continuously occupied cities, intensified my interest in bringing the room to Los Angeles so that its story can be told and appreciated in this twenty-first-century city.
The room was dissembled in 1978 from one of the courtyard houses located in the al- Bahsa district, which was later demolished in order to accommodate the growth of the city of Damascus. The room was then exported from Syria to Beirut, Lebanon where it remained in storage for over 30 years. It somehow made its way to a London warehouse where it was found by Komaroff. Although the room was maintained in its original state, some restoration was required and an armature was created to make the room self-supporting so that it could be installed in an already-existing space or reinstalled elsewhere. Komaroff describes the Damascus Room thusly:
It has multicolored inlaid stone floors, painted wood walls, elaborate cupboard doors and storage niches, a spectacular arch with plaster voussoirs decorated with colored inlays that served to divide the room into upper and lower sections separated by a single tall step; and an intricately inlaid stone wall fountain with a carved and painted hood. The painted wood surfaces are embellished with a particular type of relief decoration known in Arabic as al-‘ajami (“meaning non-Arab or foreign”) or as pastiglia in the West.
The restoration work was undertaken in collaboration with Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture and with the support provided by the Friends of Heritage Preservation, LACMA. The reassembling of the Damascus Room was a two-year project completed in December 2015. The room was on display at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia from 2016–2018 and will be returned to Los Angeles to tell its story to a new audience.The reconstruction of the Damascus Room has been one of the Linda Komaroff’s curatorial career:
Being in the room is a joy; it exudes a kind of beauty, warmth and comfort, which is in keeping with its original function as a place for welcoming guests. But that joy is tempered by the sadness of the continuing deterioration of daily life in Syria, the diaspora of its citizens, and the destruction of its historic monuments. For now, the room must play one more role as a preserver of memories of Syria, as so beautifully expressed by the Syrian-American hip-hop artist and poet Omar Offendum, whose performance* was recorded in the room.