Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

“The Legacy of Timbuktu”

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According to The Washington Post,  the exhibition “The Legacy of Timbuktu”, was scheduled to open 20 April at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in Texas, but curators from the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, Miss., which is organizing the exhibit, could not travel to the Saharan city to retrieve several manuscripts and artifacts it planned to display.

Instead, the Fort Worth museum will host a “preview” exhibit featuring 10 manuscripts and several artifacts loaned from the Mississippi museum’s permanent Timbuktu collection. That exhibit opens June 1, while the traveling exhibit will start Jan. 1, 2015, said Okolo Rashid, executive director of the Mississippi museum.

“We were very disappointed, but there was a lot of fighting, a lot of destruction, and there was no way we could go,” said Rashid. “Our main goal now is to get ready for June, but we also have to figure out when we can go to Mali.”

The smaller preview exhibit will include a plethora of historic documents, including a 14th-century manuscript about Moses written by members of Timbuktu’s Jewish community. The exhibit will also include videos and interactive displays that explore how Islam came to West Africa, Islamic-African culture, America’s connections to Timbuktu, and demonstrations on how these manuscripts were produced in the 14th century.

Timbuktu has one of the most important and largest manuscript collections in Africa. Some key texts were recently destroyed in fires (read the Guardian article).

Sponsors include the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kellogg Foundation and the Nissan Foundation, among others.


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