"ISLAMIC ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE MUSEUM"
Friday, November 5th
Part of the Silsila Fall 2021 series
Expectations regarding the context and value of excavated material vary across the fields of Islamic archaeology and museology, fields with competing epistemologies and theoretical approaches. Focusing on practices of excavation and display, this panel aims to explore the often-contentious relationships between these fields. The topic is especially relevant to a moment when the colonial and racist legacies of the academy and the museum have come under increased scrutiny. The presentations will explore the implications of archaeological research conducted by museums, the legacies of such projects, and their relevance to contemporary discussions regarding the exhibition of archaeological material from the Islamic lands. A central aim is to explore the potential meaning of context, extending the term to the modern life of objects and to the human relations enabled by it.
11.00-11.10 Introduction, Finbarr Barry Flood, Silsila/NYU & Martina Rugiadi, Metropolitan Museum of Art
11.10-11.30 Nadia Abu El-Haj, Barnard College/Columbia University, "The Archaeological Archive"
11.30-11.50 Renata Holod, University of Pennsylvania, "Archaeological Excavations and the Art Market, 1900 to 1939/40"
11.50-12.10 Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, National Museum of Afghanistan, "The Ghazni Museum Collections: Between Emergency Interventions and New Museum Practices"
12.10-12.30 Alison Gascoigne, University of Southampton, "Contested Relationships: Islamic Archaeology between Institutions"
12.30-12.50 Christian Greco, Museo Egizio, Turin, "A New Context for an Archaeological Museum"
12.50-1.30 Questions and Discussion
Nadia Abu El-Haj
Title: The Archaeological Archive
Abstract: History as sensibility, fervor, and pursuit was essential to (the birth of) nationalisms in the 19th century. For its part, archaeology emerged as a distinctive iteration of the modern historical imaginary. Rather than simply going to already established archives to sort through documents that ended up there, whether by intention or chance, much like ethnographers in Bronislaw Malinowski’s imagination, (many) archaeologists generate historical archives in the form of material cultural objects on which their historical narratives are then built. In this talk, I consider the social and political implications of this very distinctive practice of history, and ask whether or not the “facts” of history still carry the importance they once did.
Bio: Nadia Abu El-Haj is Ann Olin Whitney Professor in the Departments of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies, and Chair of the Governing Board of Columbia’s Society of Fellows/Heyman Center for the Humanities. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Harvard Academy for Area and International Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. She is the author of numerous journal articles published on topics ranging from the history of archaeology in Palestine, to the question of race and genomics, to the workings of American militarism during the post 9/11 wars. Dr. Abu El-Haj is the author of two books: Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which won the Albert Hourani Annual Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association in 2002, and The Genealogical Science: The Search for Jewish Origins and the Politics of Epistemology (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Her third book, to be published by Verso (2022), is a study of contemporary American militarism as it operates in and through the idiom of combat trauma and the obligation of American citizens to care for soldiers sent off to war in their name.
Title: Archaeological Excavations and the Art Market, 1900 to 1939/40
Abstract: The Penn Museum was the main institution of the original three [the Penn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston], which funded Erich Schmidt’s 1934-1937 aerial survey explorations and excavations on the Azdān Plain in Iran. Penn Museum’s collection represents the largest holdings of objects from the site in the USA, and outside of Iran, – as well as Schmidt’s excavation records, and aerial photographs. At the same time as Schmidt’s expeditions, whose excavated materials from the plain range in date from the Bronze Age to the early 13th c. CE, the museum was undertaking excavations at Ur, and other loci in the Middle East. In earlier decades, the museum had been buying on the art/antiquities market. By the 1930s, however, such purchasing ceased completely. A glance that the museum’s electronic catalogue reveals that objects with the catalogue numbers NEP (near east purchase) were acquired in the first quarter/third of the 20th c.
Bio: Renata Holod is College of Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, History of Art Department [Emerita]; and Curator, Near East Section, Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania. She has conducted fieldwork in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and the Pontic steppe of Ukraine. She is the co-author of City in the Desert, 1978; Architecture and Community, 1983; The Mosque and the Modern World, 1997; The City in the Islamic World, 2008; An Island Through Time: Jerba, 2009. She has published numerous articles. Honors include the Middle East Studies Association Award for Mentorship, 2020; Festschrift “Envisioning Islamic Art and Architecture: Essays in Honor of Renata Holod” David Roxburgh, ed. [Brill, 2014]; College for Women Class of 1963 Term Chair in the Humanities, 2010 -; Provost’s Award for Mentorship of Graduate Students, 2010; Islamic Environmental Design Achievement Award, 2004; Clark Professor, Williams College and Clark Institute, Fall 2002; Fellow, Clark Institute, Fall 1999; Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, Visitor, 1994-95; Chair, Master Jury, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1992; Distinguished Landsdowne Lecturer, U. of Victoria, 1992; Kolb Senior Fellow, Penn Museum, 1989 – ongoing; King Fahd Award for Teaching Architecture of Muslim Cultures, 1986.
Mohammad Fahim Rahimi
Title: The Ghazni Museum Collections: Between Emergency Interventions and New Museum Practices.
Abstract: The Ghazni Museum holds some of the richest collections in Afghanistan, housing thousands of objects mainly excavated from two archeological sites: the twelfth-century palace of the Ghaznavid sultan Mas'ud III, and the site of Tepe Sardar, with important Buddhist and other materials. However, the Afghan conflicts and poor housing and care conditions caused repeated damage to the artifacts. In the last two years, the National Museum of Afghanistan carried out a series of missions to document, consolidate and rehouse the collections of the Ghazni Museum. This talk will focus on these important works, the current state and future concerns and plans for the museum.
Bio: Mohammad Fahim Rahimi is the Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan. He received his BA from the Archaeology and Anthropology department of Kabul University in 2005 and an MA from the Anthropology Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 through a Fulbright scholarship, focused on Archeology and Heritage Preservation. In 2010, he participated in an international heritage preservation course called First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict at the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome, Italy. In 2011, he was a participant in a curatorial training course on the art and history of Afghanistan and Pakistan at the University of Vienna. In 2007, he joined the National Museum of Afghanistan as a curator and became Chief Curator in 2013. In the National Museum of Afghanistan, he has curated several large-scale exhibitions, including Mes Aynak - Recent Discoveries Along the Silk Route Exhibition, and Buddhist Heritage of Afghanistan Exhibition and 1000 Cities of Bactria. As current director of the National Museum of Afghanistan Mr. Rahimi’s responsibilities include overseeing the regional museums of Afghanistan, drafting policy, organizing national and international exhibitions, securing funding, collection enrichment, preservation and the return of looted artifacts from Afghanistan.
Title: Contested Relationships: Islamic Archaeology between Institutions
Abstract: Islamic archaeology is practiced in a variety of different spheres: in the field, in museums and exhibitions, in universities, in professional bodies and learned societies, and in governmental organizations. In each of these institutions, historically and currently, contrasting priorities and approaches dominate, and methodological, intellectual and ethical tensions can arise. This talk will consider the historical development of the sub-discipline of Islamic Archaeology and its relationship to wider archaeology, art history, museology, history and science, drawing primarily on examples and experiences in Egypt, and highlighting some areas where cross-disciplinary practice could be improved.
Bio: Alison L. Gascoigne holds an Associate Professorship in Archaeology at the University of Southampton, having studied at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests lie mainly in Egypt, with a particular focus on the archaeology of urbanism from late antiquity to the late medieval period. She has co-directed a program of fieldwork at the important site of Tell Tinnis in Lake Manzala, published as The Island City of Tinnis: A Postmortem in 2020. She has also published on the archaeology of Old Cairo/Fustat, Hisn al-Bab (Aswan), and the North Kharga Oasis in Egypt, as well as the sites of Jam and the Bala Hissar (Kabul) in Afghanistan.
Title: A New Context for an Archaeological Museum
Abstract: The meaning attributed to a collection and its organization varies in terms of its own language and scientific aims, as cultures change over time. This observation naturally leads to the awareness that each new display is the latest in a series but not the last in the history of a museum and that it will eventually become part of a broader historical and hermeneutic analysis. A recurrent subtext that emerged during recent discussions about the scientific and educational significance of the Museo Egizio, its new display, and its role as a research center, was the idea of continuity between the history of the museum and its present and immediate future. The new display materializes the method and means by which the presentation of the collections can be enhanced within the broader framework of their archaeological, prosopographic, and antiquarian contextualization. It reflects the combination of a scientific approach (emphasizing research and international cooperation) and a socio-cultural approach (concerning relations with the public and the local area) in the new Museo Egizio: both are manifest in an emphasis on connections.
Bio: Christian Greco is the Director of the Museo Egizio in Turin since 2014. In 2015, he led the complete renovation of the museum’s galleries, transforming it from an antiquities museum into an archaeological museum. Trained mainly in the Netherlands, he is an Egyptologist with vast experience working in museums. He curated exhibition and curatorial projects in the Netherlands (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden; Kunsthal, Rotterdam; Teylers Museum, Haarlem), Japan (Okinawa, Fukushima, Takasaki and Okayama museums), Finland (Vapriikki Museum, Tampere), Spain (La Caixa Foundation) and Scotland (National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh). At the Museo Egizio, he has set up important collaborations with international museums, universities, and research institutes. Greco is also currently teaching courses in the material culture of ancient Egypt and museology at the Università di Torino and Pavia, the Scuola di Specializzazione in Beni Archeologici of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, the Scuola IUSS in Pavia and New York University in Abu Dhabi. His fieldwork experience includes being the co-director of the Italian-Dutch archeological mission at Saqqara in Egypt since 2011, and being a member for several years of the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Luxor. His published record includes many scholarly essays and writings for the non-specialist public in several languages. He has been a keynote speaker at a number of international conferences on Egyptology and museology.
Bio: Martina Rugiadi is Associate Curator in the Islamic Art Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she co-curated Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs in 2016. Her most recent publication is The Seljuqs and their Successors. Art, Culture and History (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) which she co-edited with Sheila Canby and Deniz Beyazit. As an archaeologist, she has worked in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Oman, and is currently co-directing the Towns of the Karakum (ToKa) archaeological project in Turkmenistan. Her research is situated at the intersection of archaeology and art history. Current projects explore Islamic period spolia, conflicting historiographies of Islamic art and archaeology, and practices and networks of craft technologies.