Fifteen new galleries tracing the course of Islamic civilization opened in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday after a decade-long effort spent collecting Islamic art, craft and architectural pieces.
“The opening of these extraordinary new galleries underscores our mission as an encyclopedic museum and provides a unique opportunity to convey the grandeur and complexity of Islamic art and culture at a pivotal moment in world history,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum in a press release.
The galleries, which span over 13 centuries in history, include the Arab region, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia.
“The public will find galleries filled with magnificent works of art that evoke the plurality of the Islamic tradition and the vast cross-fertilization of ideas and artistic forms that has shaped our shared cultural heritage,” Campbell added.
The galleries also demonstrate the long-existence of Islam in the United States and hope that visitors will be educated on the religion’s history especially against the backdrop of Sep. 11, 2001 and the corollaries of the incident.
“It is imperative that America worked towards changing the negative perception of Islam and showcased Islam in a positive way. The Art galleries were considered one way of doing so,” wrote Sultan Shahin, an editor of the online New Age Islam, as he was among the 20 Muslim journalists invited by the U.S. State Department to learn about Islam in America.
The galleries’ collection includes more than 12,000 works of art drawn from an area that extends from Spain in the west to India in the east, and around 1,200 works of art in all media will be on view at any time, representing all major regions and artistic styles, from the seventh century onward.
Collection of manuscripts including medieval Qurans to fragile glass objects , rare and precious carpets armor, painting, scientific instruments and carvings (from wood to stone and ivory) are few examples that were showcased.
The galleries’ layout is chronological and arranged by region. Visitors can start from the Arab region from which Islam sprang to cover Umayyads and Abbasids reigns (seventh to 13th centuries) all the way to South Asia (16th to 20th centuries).