“Science, Nature and Magnificence: Concord and Cosmological Views in Islamic Science” is an exhibit which showcases over 90 manuscripts, devices and objects centered on the Islamic sciences broadly conceived, a lot of which have by no means been on show earlier than since they entered our collections within the Uncommon E book and Manuscript Library on the Columbia College Libraries, some 100 years in the past.
This exhibit is a collective curatorial effort that has concerned college students, college members, librarians and library employees working hand-in-hand over fourteen months: from its inception, this exhibit has been conceived as a dynamic, collaborative engagement with our Muslim World Manuscript collections, and as a chance to make use of displays in our Libraries as a important pedagogical software, one that’s grounded in an mental self-discipline and a topic, past mere “present and inform” visible displays. It was additionally actively conceived with the intention to help a well-rounded liberal arts schooling for our college students and to additional their success. We conceived this exhibit as a studying, collaborative journey, one which we hoped would contain many voices and gamers, numerous and totally different, however all the time united by an incredible scholarly companionship, a suhba (companionship) of students in the hunt for the enjoyment of studying.
A number of further issues additionally performed a task in motivating us to place up this exhibit: one impetus got here from the belief that even a cursory have a look at CUL’s assortment of Islamic manuscripts and the Smith/Plimpton assortment of scientific devices reveals a number of vital info. First, we had been struck by the depth of gathering round Islamic science in our Muslim World Manuscript (MWM) assortment at RBML. The foundational function of the MWM assortment within the formation of RBML isn’t acknowledged, and the Smith Plimpton collections, which shaped the core of the present Uncommon E book and Manuscript Library (based in 1934) with unmatched power within the historical past of Islamic science, have but to be acknowledged and put in dialogue with the remainder of the RBML collections. The gadgets within the assortment demanded to be seen, engaged with, researched and appreciated: an exhibit specializing in Islamic science clearly constituted an incredible alternative for scholarly studying and for energetic engagement with our collections, and for illuminating barely seen or suppressed chronological lineages and networks of scholarship, dialogue and exchanges not solely within the historical past of science but in addition within the historical past of our personal Library collections.
Second, these collections clearly problem the normal narrative of Islamic science as squeezed between mere transmission (of the Greco-Hellenistic heritage) and translation (into the European Renaissance). The gadgets exhibited right here contribute to an understanding of Islamic science as a strong, numerous and vigorous scholarly endeavor that touched on many points of the Muslim world, and as a central and non-reducible part of bigger and non-linear histories, cultures and traditions of the humanities and sciences. The conclusion we drew was that such an exhibit would represent a beautiful alternative to handle these silences and gaps; to counterpoint the historical past of science from a non-Western standpoint.
Our curatorial staff consisted of the next members: Kaoukab Chebaro (International Research, Columbia College Libraries), Olivia Clemens (PhD candidate, Artwork historical past Division), Aneka Kazlyna (graduate pupil, MESAAS), Arwa Palanpurwala (Islamic Research MA Scholar, Center East Institute- GSAS, ), Prof. Tunç Şen (Historical past Division), Prof. Marwa Elshakry (Historical past Division), Prof. Avinoam Shalem (Reggio professor, Artwork Historical past Division), Julia Tomasson (graduate pupil, Historical past Division), Yusuf Umrethwala (Islamic Research MA Scholar, Center East Institute-GSAS).
We met fortnightly for the higher a part of the yr to undergo the various gadgets that our staff of scholars, fellows, librarians and college researched, wrote about and introduced throughout our collective discussions. The result’s ten home windows organized beneath the next themes and titles: Window I: Information and Follow (co-curated by Prof. Tunç Şen, Prof. Marwa Elshakry and Kaoukab Chebaro); Window II: Cosmographies and Wonders of the World (co-curated by Yusuf Umrethwala and Kaoukab Chebaro; Window III: Retaining Time: in Synchrony with the Heavens ((co-curated by Yusuf Umrethwala and Kaoukab Chebaro); Window IV: Instructing, Pedagogy and Adab (curated by Kaoukab Chebaro); Window V: Euclid (curated by Julia Tomasson); Window VI: Islamic Astronomy and Astrology (curated by Aneka Kazlyna); Window VII: Mathematical Sciences (Co-curated by Julia and Aneka); Window VIII: the Occult Sciences (curated by Tunç Şen with help from Kaoukab Chebaro); Window IX: Past Illustration: Adab and Methods of Seeing (co-curated by Kaoukab Chebaro, Arwa Palanpurwala and Olivia Clemens, with recommendation from Prof. Avinoam Shalem) ; Window X: Past the Textual content: Calligraphy as a contrapuntal, devotional and scientific artwork (co-curated by Kaoukab Chebaro, Arwa Palanpurwala and Olivia Clemens, with recommendation from Prof. Avinoam Shalem), and Window XI, the place we lay out our collaborative curatorial method, and share testimonies from the assorted exhibit staff members (curators, in addition to conservators, designers, college, college students) who share their ideas and experiences with mounting the exhibit.
Of their experiences of the exhibit, some pupil curators stated the next:
Aneka Kazlyna (graduate pupil, MESAAS): “This exhibit has been one of the formative experiences of my graduate schooling. I discovered hands-on abilities with manuscripts and printed editions that I couldn’t attain in lessons alone. I shaped lovely friendships by engaged on this exhibit and received to know everybody who cares deeply about Islamic manuscripts and scientific data throughout mental traditions.”
Yusuf Umrethwala (Islamic Research MA Scholar, Center East Institute-GSAS):”This exhibit introduced an incredible studying expertise for me, and it was very gratifying to be part of a staff of inspiring colleagues and professors. The key takeaway from the exhibit was studying the artwork of receiving and giving suggestions.”
Arwa Palanpurwala (Islamic Research MA Scholar, Center East Institute-GSAS): “This exhibit proved to be one in all my favourite experiences at Columbia. Not solely was I a part of an outstanding staff, however I used to be additionally critically partaking with the manuscripts themselves and had entry to layers of historical past that the manuscripts carried of their pages. Partaking with manuscripts and materials tradition so instantly was a transformative academic expertise. It gave me the chance to consider a lot of my very own preconceptions and people of up to date views on Islamic mental historical past in a important method. I got here away with some eye opening conversations, made buddies, and constructed great recollections which actually enriched my expertise each as a pupil at Columbia but in addition as an exhibit viewer, extra broadly. I’ll take a few of the classes discovered right here to each exhibition I’ll go to to any extent further!”
We hope that this exhibit embodies and exemplifies the pedagogical energy of our archival collections on the Libraries, and the promise of the collaborative curatorial mannequin we’ve put in place and experimented with. We’re assured there are a lot of classes discovered there and areas of progress that are worthy of additional exploration as we search to additional activate our archival collections, and to unleash their important pedagogical energy.
We additionally hope that this exhibit will present its viewers with a historic view of scientific apply inside Islamic societies as basically a matter of contemplation, concord and attunement with the universe, slightly than of management and energy over nature and sources. The view of Islamic societies that emerges is of a society permeated by science at each stage: science finally ends up informing every little thing from day by day calendars and prayer occasions calculated throughout a number of latitudes, intricate data of the skies and the planets, structure and grand monuments laid to express mathematical and beautiful geometric patterns of arabesques and mosaics, to pocket astrolabes that assist navigate the world. A scholar of Islamic science as soon as jokingly stated to me that the astrolabe, popularized by Islamic scientists on unprecedented scales, is the traditional equal of the smartphone! Maybe this exhibit will assist to disclose the reality of this comment.
This exhibit is open to all: guests and members of the general public, please concentrate on the College COVID compliance necessities, and be ready to point out government-issued ID on the Library Data Workplace as a way to enter Butler Library. The hours for the Library Data Workplace will be discovered right here, and for the Uncommon E book and Manuscript Library right here.
A collection of panels and talks associated to the exhibit and to the Muslim World Manuscript assortment on show will probably be introduced shortly: it is going to embrace panels from college students and college who had been a part of the curatorial staff, in addition to conservateurs who labored on the manuscripts, and different college students and students occupied with our Muslim World Manuscript collections. Please keep tuned.