There are many magnificent museums of Islamic art and culture all around the world. From the oldest to the newest, these documentaries show just some of the creative beauty of Muslim life, art and history.
There are literally hundreds of museums around the world with magnificent collections of Islamic art. The oldest, and perhaps the most special of them all, is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Founded in 1858, it houses more than 120,000 objects and artefacts including many rare, and ancient Quranic manuscripts.
Sadly, museums can be very vulnerable to conflict and the losses endured by the Iraq Museum in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion were devastating. Much was destroyed and surprisingly few of its looted artefacts have been returned. Perhaps with this in mind, the National Museum of Damascus closed in 2012 and quickly began storing its collection, often in secret locations. It remained closed for the next 6 years, reopening in Autumn 2018.
Unsurprisingly, many other large collections of Islamic art and artefacts are held in Europe and the United States. In the UK, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and Jameel Gallery has a collection of more than 10,000 objects and artefacts. Two documentaries, one about the making of this gallery and another looking at some of its key objects, are reviewed in depth on a previous journal post here: Islamic Art Museums: The Jameel Gallery
Another country with epic art museums is Turkey. With works from the Umayyad, Abbasid, North African, Andalusian, Fatimian, Seljuk, Ayyubid, Ilkhanid, Mameluk, Timurid, Safavid, Turkic, Caucasian and Ottoman civilisations, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, covers a period from the earliest days of Islamic art to the 20th century. Many of the separate collections at the museum are rich enough to be made into museums in their own right. The vast collection of manuscripts in the museum is astounding and it also houses the world’s most eminent collection of carpets.
The Topkapi Palace Museum is another jewel of Istanbul. The palace was the imperial residence of the Ottoman dynasty and is a unique complex of structures very different from all other palaces in Europe and the Islamic world. One of the richest palace-museums with over 86,000 relics and artefacts, it is a timeless monument to the artistic ingenuity of the past.
Established in 2008, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, holds one the world’s most complete collection of Islamic artefacts despite being one of the newest museums in the world. Its collection represents over 1,400 years of Islamic art from Spain, Iraq, Iran, India, Turkey, Egypt and Central Asia. The museum was built on an island and is set in a purpose-built park with two bridges, near the traditional trading boat or dhow harbour in Doha. It was designed by architect I. M. Pei and you can meet him in Learning From Light: the Vision of I.M. Pei, a documentary that explores how he transforms his love of culture, nature and light into modern architectural masterpieces.
For more great documentaries on Islamic art museums and Islamic artistic heritage, check Alchemiya’s Art, Creativity, Culture collection.