Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

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Call to Review Cambridge Exhibition


Attr. Giovanni di Nicola di Manzoni dal Colle, Inkstand with The Nativity, c.1510 © The Fitzwilliam Museum

Have you visited the Madonnas & Miracles exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge?

The editors of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief are looking to include a review of the exhibition in a forthcoming issue.

If you would like to submit, please visit the Journal’s website.

The exhibition is running until 4 June 2017 in the Adeane & Mellon galleries (free admission).


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Making Suburban Faith: Architectures of Shared Space Exhibition, March 11th

Making Suburban Faith is proud to present the cumulation of the Architectures of Shared Space project in the form of an exhibition showing the results of the collaboration between Making Suburban Faith, Mangera Yvars Architects and sixth-form students from Brentside High School. The exhibition will occur on Friday 11th March, 6.30pm in the North Cloisters, UCL.

All are welcome to attend

MSF Arch Proj Rec Exhib Invite PROOF-1
MSF Arch Proj Rec Exhib Invite PROOF-2

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Exhibition on religion in Egypt “After the Pharaohs” to open in London 

The British Museum’s latest exhibition explores religion in Egypt following the fall of the Pharaohs.

BM bowl_384_2

Bowl with the image of a Christian priest, Cairo, Egypt, AD 1050–1100 (on loan from the V&A)

According to the Museum’s website:

“The exhibition begins in 30 BC, when Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire after the death of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and continues until AD 1171 when the rule of the Islamic Fatimid dynasty came to an end. The remarkable objects in the exhibition have been uniquely preserved in Egypt’s arid climate, and many have never been on display before. Their survival provides unparalleled access to the lives of individuals and communities, and they tell a rich and complex story of influences, long periods of peaceful coexistence, and intermittent tension and violence between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The state’s use of religion to assert power is shown by fabulous sculptures that mix ancient Egyptian and Roman imperial iconography, and letters on papyrus concerning the treatment of Jews and early Christians. Gravestones and architectural elements demonstrate the reuse and reworking of sacred spaces – temple complexes were reused as churches and, later, mosques.

The changes in people’s private lives are shown through everyday objects – delicate fragments of papyrus preserve some of the earliest surviving Jewish scriptures and lost Christian gospels. Colourful garments and accessories show what people wore, and soft-furnishings show how they dressed their homes.

Together, the objects in the exhibition show how the shift from the traditional worship of many gods to monotheism – the belief in one God – affected every part of life. Egypt’s journey from Roman to Islamic control reflects the wider transformation from the ancient to medieval world, a transition that has shaped the world we live in today.

Egypt: Faith After the Pharaohs opens 29 October 2015 and runs to 7 February 2016.

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Neglected Parsi museum in Mumbai being revamped

The following article appeared on The Times of India website:

Neglected Parsi museum in Mumbai being revamped

By Nergish Sunavala, 2 Jan 2014

MUMBAI: Though many historians estimate that Parsis took refuge in India as far back as 936CE, most Indians have never ventured inside a fire temple.

Allowing not just non-Parsis but even women, who have married outside the religion , into the holy sanctum has led to heated debates. However in about three years, non-Parsi scholars of Zoroastrianism will be able to see a replica of a fire temple at the revamped F D Alpaiwalla Museum, ensconced in Khareghat Colony on Hughes Road.

The restoration work was started about a year ago and funded by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet to create an enduring Zoroastrian legacy as part of the10th World Zoroastrian Congress, which wrapped up on Monday. On Wednesday, WZC delegates gathered for a “jashan” or traditional Zoroastrian blessing to mark the end of the first phase of the renovation , which involved securing the 80-year-old structure.

“The next phase involves restoring the artifacts (coins, stamps, furniture, porcelain and sculptures) and organising the lighting, display cabinets and temperature control,” said the National Gallery of Modern Art’s advisory committee chairperson Pheroza Godrej , who has been spearheading the project along with Zoroastrian researcher Firoza Punthakey-Mistree , conservation architect Vikas Dilawari, curator Nivedita Mehta and other conservationists .

According to current plans, the refurbished museum will have a section dedicated to ancient Iran with artifacts found in Yazd and Susa, a recreation of the British Museum’s 10-metre cast of the western staircase from Persian King Darius’s palace at Persepolis, a TV to screen documentaries, a museum shop and an outdoor cafe.

A ramp and hydraulic lift will also be installed to make the museum accessible to the differently abled. Few Mumbaikars have ever even heard about the existence of the Alpaiwalla Museum , which opened in the early 1950s as a showcase for Parsi collector Framji Dadabhoy Alpaiwalla’s artifacts and material from Parsi scholar Jamshed Unwalla’s archaeological digs in Iran. The collection included Dadabhai Naoroji’s table, an original firman issued by Emperor Jahangir in 1618 CE to Naoroji’s forefathers, Chinese porcelain and a classic Gandhara Buddha statue.

“People think it is all broken bits and shards of pottery but we have valuable stuff here,” said Godrej. It was only when some of these artifacts were sent for “The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination” , an exhibition organised by SOAS, University of London, that the museum realised that one tiny metal object from a Zoroastrian ‘Tower of Silence’ in Yazd was a “national treasure”

Article from The Times of India website.

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Exhibition on hajj opens in Qatar

An exhibition exploring the Islamic annual pilgrimage hajj opened at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar last month and will run until 5 January 2014. ‘Hajj: the journey through art‘ is the first exhibition held in the Muslim world to explore the art related to the annual pilgrimage and will feature artworks from Qatari collections as well as objects from Saudi Arabia and beyond.

In a press release  Aisha Al Khater, Director of Museum of Islamic Art, Doha (MIA), said:

“Exhibitions such as this have traditionally been the purview of European and North American museums… MIA is dedicated to shedding light on our past to inspire future generations, and we believe the power of art is essential to bringing the story of our cultures to life. We have every confidence that this exhibition will do just that” (from

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the British Museum (BM), following the BM’s 2012 major exhibition ‘Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam‘. While the exhibition at the BM catered for a predominately British audience made up of both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors, the exhibition in Doha is largely aimed at Muslim audiences who are familiar with the religious significance of the sites and rituals. The exhibition in Doha, therefore, focuses on past and present artistic traditions that have shaped and taken inspiration from the pilgrimage. The exhibition also pays particular attention to the pilgrimage routes from Qatar.

For more information, visit MIA’s website.

The British Museum also collaborated with a number of other museums on exhibitions exploring the Islamic pilgrimage including the Arab World Institute (AWI) in Paris and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands.

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Faith in Suburbia Opens at St Thomas the Apostle Church, Hanwell, W7

faith in suburbia


The third version of the Faith in Suburbia Exhibition opens today in St Thomas the Apostle Church in Hanwell, W7. Great to have the exhibition open at one of the participating places of worship. It looks great with the banners hung on the elegant columns in the nave of the church.

The church is open daily from 8-5pm. It is also open this weekend as part of London Ride and Stride

And on the weekend of 21st-22nd September the church is open as part of London’s Open House weekend

Designed by architect Edward Maufe in 1993 this is a wonderful hidden gem of a suburban church – well worth a visit!

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Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm

Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm

Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm

The first exhibition to examine iconoclasm in Britain opens on October 2nd 2013 at Tate Britain, London. The exhibition will present 500 years of assaults on icons, symbols, monuments and books.

From the exhibition website:

Religious iconoclasm of the 16th and 17th centuries is explored with statues of Christ decapitated during the Dissolution, smashed stained glass from Rievaulx Abbey, fragments of the great rood screen at Winchester Cathedral and a book of hours from British Library, defaced by state-sanctioned religious reformers. These works are accompanied by vivid accounts of the destructive actions of Puritan iconoclasts.

Highlights include Thomas Johnson’s Interior of Canterbury Cathedral 1657– the only painting documenting Puritan iconoclasm in England – exhibited for the first time alongside stained glass removed from the windows of the cathedral.

Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm
Tate Britain: Exhibition
2 October 2013 – 5 January 2014
Adult £14.50 (without donation £13.10)
Concession £12.50 (without donation £11.30)

Mark Brown, arts correspondent for The Guardian, explored the themes and issues related to the forthcoming exhibition back in July.  Read the article.