The Museum of Islamic Art
Destination for Art, Knowledge and Architecture
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is a landmark of Qatar. The museum opened its door for visitors on November 2008 (Alarabiya, 2008). The museum’s significance to Qatar can be understood through knowing that it was designed by the architect I.M. Pei, who also designed Le Grand Louvre. The significance of the MIA for Qatar is not limited to its architecture, but also to its collection and the objectives behind this collection.
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is dedicated to reflecting the vitality, complexity and diversity of the arts in the Islamic world. The museum houses a collection of pieces from across three continents and 13 centuries. It is envisaged as a centre for research and creativity which will attract art historians and artists from around the world. As a forum for dialogue and cultural exchange, it is anticipated by its chairperson, Sheikha Al Mayassa, that the museum will transform the state of Qatar into a Middle Eastern cultural capital (Mohamed 2009).
The objectives behind the MIA and its collection is to make Qatar an international destination for individuals who seek knowledge, for individuals who seek communication with other cultures and for individuals who seek Art. The MIA started working on its cultural tasks through building a collection with jewelry, textiles, paintings, coins and other collections of international interest. Also, the MIA organized activities for the public through community art programs, tours, and children activities (MIA, 2016). The museum activities did not limit itself to its physical space but also reached out to children and families and collaborated with educational institutes such as UCL Qatar to serve the targeted audience. For MIA to accomplish this mission, a professional information or research center needs to be available to provide the museum with research knowledge. The knowledge is needed to help the museum choose its collection, plan its programs, and understand its audience.
The modern building is inspired by Islamic ancient architecture of the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo. The Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei designed the Museum as a main building with an adjoining education wing connected by a large middle court. The main building rises five-stories, topped by a high-domed atrium within a central tower.
The collection of artifacts are all connected to Islamic cultures. However, they come from both the secular and religious perspectives of different worlds, with many that are non-religious in nature.
The collection covers three continents and 1400 years of Art. It has one of the world’s most complete collections of Islamic artifacts, with items from Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, and Central Asia.
The museum has has more than 800 manuscripts from Qur’ans from the 7th century to Ottoman works of the 19th century. It also displays other manuscripts on the the topics of science, literature, and religious subjects.
The museum displays the rarest manuscript in the Islamic world: the renowned Abbasid Blue Qur’an. In addition, it displays two pages from the Timurid Baysunghur Qur’an, the biggest Qur’an in the world.
Textile Online Collection at MIA: https://www.mia.org.qa/en/collections/search-collections
- METALWORK COLLECTION: The collection includes fine works of metalworkers from crafted vessels of bronze, steel or brass, that are finished with silver and gold. The collection varies from war wear and tools to everyday objects. The time period covered is from the 7th century to the modern day Islamic world.
- GLASS COLLECTION: The collection includes decorative and everyday life glass pieces from an early period to colored glass lamps.
- TEXTILE COLLECTION: The collection contains some of the top pieces of carpets, clothes and a wide collection of fabrics that survived from luxurious products of before the 16th century.
This and more can be viewed online at the Museum website with over 4oo items displayed. A team of professionals work to conserve the collection. The Museum has one of the top labs when it comes to the conservation of different materials of Artworks.
The museum contains a large education department with 5 teams: Art Education, Community Outreach, Academic Programs, Museum Guides and the Library. MIA library is a museum library that focuses in its collection on Islamic art. The library is for professionals as it contains a collection of rare books. To visit the library, an individual needs to contact the museum. In addition to books about Islamic Art , the library owns a collection of 2,000 rare books in English and Arabic. The library has a childrens section that provides books and activities for children.
The Museum visit includes more than collection viewing and library access to enjoy shopping, food and even a garden walk. Visitors can enjoy a snack at the MIA Café or even have a fine dinner at the well-known “Idam” Restaurant on the top floor if the Museum. They can also shop for fine made souvenirs from the gift shop were gifts varies from stationary to fine pottery, jewelry and books. The MIA park is one of the destinations of individuals and family who wish to have long walks to enjoy the beautiful view of the museum overlooking the corniche.
The Book on the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, showcases the artistic achievements of the Muslim world in a dazzling way. Interviews with I.M. Pei and Jean-Michel Wilmotte reveal how the architects sought to express the museum’s ties with tradition while allowing the building to become an integral part of the region’s modern architectural environment. In addition, Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir, the director of the museum, discusses her vision for the display of the objects and the challenges of presenting Islamic art to the public. A selection of thirty of the museum’s most important treasures, including metalwork, miniatures, carpets, calligraphy and ceramics, are featured with texts outlining their origins and significance.
Author: Philip Jodidio
Photographs by Lois Lammerhuber
2008, Edition Lammerhuber,
ISBN : 9783791339337
Want to see what books staff at the Museum of Islamic Arts recommend? Look here.
Mohamed, Yasien. . ‘The New Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar – ProQuest’ <https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.ucl.ac.uk/docview/1020640299?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo> [accessed 9 August 2017]
‘About the Museum of Islamic Art’. [n.d.]. <http://www.mia.org.qa/en/about> [accessed 4 August 2017]
0. [n.d.]. ‘Museum of Islamic Arts Opens in Qatar’ <https://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/11/23/60662.html> [accessed 9 August 2017]
Rana A. Abdulrahman
Rana has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University of Qatar, a Diploma of Academic Research and Methods and A Master of Library and Information Studies from University College London. She began her career as a User Experience Designer in Qatar Museums. As part of her placement for her Master study, she worked at the Library of Museum of Islamic Art and worked on collection for the library of the National Museum of Qatar. After finishing her MLIS, Rana worked as a research assistant for the Library and Information department at University college London. Since 2018 Rana worked as an Information Services Librarian at Qatar National Library and an occasional lecturer at University College London.
#QatariLitMonth is curated by Abeer S. Al-Kuwari
Abeer works as director of Research and Learning Services at the newly established Qatar National Library (QNL). Abeer’s work focuses on engaging library researchers in the Qatari community to explore archival and libraries as Memory institutions and documentary heritage. She is a founding member of the Library and Information Association in Qatar (LIA-Q), which was established in 2014.