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Middle East Studies

Scholarly and research related resources for the region stretching from North Africa to Iran

General Resources in Islamic Art/Architecture

Museums and Collections

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a rich collection of Islamic art, ranging from ceramics and textiles to minitature paintings but there is limited gallery space to display it. Objects in the museum's collections can be viewed by appointmemt; contact the curatorial department for Asian art to arrange one. The MFA Boston's collections search database provides access to images and descriptions of hundreds of objects in the collection.

The Harvard Art Museums' collection of Islamic and Indian art is not far and they also support the Islamic Heritage Project which provides online access to digital copies of over 280 manuscripts, 275 printed texts, and 50 maps, totaling over 156,000 pages.

The Cleveland Museum of Art makes highlights of its collections available through its collection online website. The museum's Islamic art collection includes ceramics, metalwork, glass, and works on parchment and paper. The strongest holdings are in miniature paintings. The museum's collection of Islamic textiles, comprising some 450 items, is considered one of the finest in the world.

The Freer and Sackler Galleries (Washington, D.C.) are the Smithsonian Institution's museums of Asian art, with particular strengths in ceramics and illustrated manuscripts from the Islamic world. The museum's digital collection includes images and descriptions of more than 2,000 items from the earliest century of Islam to present. The Freer and Sackler Galleries
also provide digital access to the scholarly papers of
Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948) including his notebooks and journals and more than 5,000 photographs, sketches and maps.

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has more than 75,000 early photographic images of the Middle East; most of them are accessible online via the Prints and Photographs online catalog.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Collections Online images database includes representative items from the South and Southeast Asian, Japanese, Islamic, Photography and Costume and Textiles collections. Highlights of LACMA's Islamic art collections can also be browsed online

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York's online collection database provides access to over 137,446 works of art, among them 12,350 Islamic art objects. Thesecan be searched or browsed by department.

Princeton University Library, which holds one of North America's richest collection of Islamic manuscripts (some 9,500 bound manuscripts, containing a total of more than 20,000 texts), has begun to make them available via the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts. Some 200 manuscripts have been digitized in the first phase of the project. The Shahnama Project at Princeton University is an online archive of book paintings illustrating the Persian national epic.

The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, Md.) has a particularly fine collection of manuscripts from the Islamic world. The museum's virtual Islamic Manuscripts Gallery  provides digital scans of 58 complete Islamic manuscripts, viewable cover-to-cover and downloadable. For more digitized manuscripts, see also The Digital Walters and the online exhibition Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters.

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The British Library has an Images Online database featuring digital images of selected individual pages from the Library's vast collection of Islamic manuscripts (but no whole manuscripts).

The British Museum's collection database has records for over 1,531,662 objects in the museum's collections; 411,187 of these records include images.

At the University of Cambridge, the Fitzwilliam Museum's exhibition, Epic of the Persian Kings: The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi included a virtual gallery showing digitized versions of a selection of manuscript pages from the exhibition.

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, one of the great collections of illuminated Islamic manuscripts in the world, also displays a selection of ca. 50 pages from its Islamic MSS in its online Image Gallery. 

The Bodleian  Library at Oxford has put select Oriental manuscripts from its collection on line, including manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum has put its collections database online, with over 1,400 Islamic art objects; the majority of entries have images.

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The Musée du Louvre houses one of the world's greatest collections of works of art from prehistoric times to the 19th century. The Louvre's Department of Islamic Art reopened in Sept. 2012, with some 2,000 of the museum's 18,000 Islamic art objects on display in the new Islamic galleries. The Louvre's web site provides access to several databases of digitized images of the collection, some with both French and English search interfaces.

The National Library of France has a more extensive database for its manuscripts, called Mandragore, including a number of manuscripts digitized and online in their entirety. One can search for individual authors or titles, or one can navigate through the "Classement thématique" link.

The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, home to one of the world's great collections of Islamic art, also has a digital collection that provides online access to selected images from its over three million works of art and artefacts - paintings, graphic works, sculptures and works of applied art, archaeological finds and numismatic material.

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The Europeana Cultural Collections database provides digital access to over 23 million objects, from more than 2200 participating institutions in 34 countries. The database includes more than 10,000 Islamic art objects and hundreds of Islamic manuscripts, some of them digitized in full.

The Islamic Art Virtual Museum (part of the Museum with No Frontiers project) has a searchable database with full descriptive entries and digital images of more than 1500 Islamic art objects from museums in 17 countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Alphabetical list of Open Access Islamic Manuscripts Collections (AMIR), a continually updated listing of links to more than 50 websites of museums, libraries and other collections around the world that have digitized parts or all of their Islamic manuscripts and have made them accessible online.

The World Digital Library, a project supported by UNESCO, is a searchable database of digitized manuscripts, albums and photographs and other items contributed by libraries, museums and other cultural institutions from around the world and is full of surprising discoveries. Participating institutions range from the National Library of Brazil to the National Library and Archives of the Islamic Republic of Iran and from the Berlin State Library to Yale University.

Image Sources for Islamic Art