Byzantium and Islam: A Special/Web Exhibit at the Met

Museums large and small are not only digitizing their inventories; many now also create permanent websites for special exhibitions.  An excellent example of the latter is “Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition,” at the Met between March 14 and July 8 2012, one of the best presentations of the material culture of later Late Antiquity, which brought the now widespread academic trend of viewing early Islam within its historical context to a wider audience; the exhibition was favorably reviewed by Peter Brown.  The exhibition website is organized according to Exhibition Themes, including Byzantium’s Southern Provinces, Orthodox, Syriac, and Coptic Christianity, Judaism, Iconoclasm, Trade Goods, Palaces and Princely Life, and Islamic Religious Works; each has a very brief introduction, and a useful collection of images, also with short descriptions, including works which were loaned to the Met.  Other traces of the exhibit on the internet include the exhibition blog, with a disparate set of entries (many by museum staff), featuring many valuable images, for instance of Qusayr ‘Amra; and even several lengthy videos on YouTube: a scholarly symposium, a curator’s workshop on collecting Byzantine and early Islamic art, and Elizabeth Bolman’s description of the Red Monastery.  In the digital era, the substantial work that goes into assembling temporary exhibitions is finally being preserved beyond the publication of print catalogues with limited circulation.

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