Lecture by Dr. Nicoletta Fazio (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha),
“A Tale of Two Cities: Displaying the Qur’ān between Berlin and Doha”


Date / Time Mon 4 Mar 2024 15:30–17:00 (Doors open at 15:00)
Venue Room 304 (ILCAA) + Online meeting
* Pre-registration is required.Registration (deadline: 2 Mar 2024, 22:00 JST)
Admission Free
Language English
Organized by NIHU Global Area Studies Program: The Global Mediterranean at ILCAA
Contact gmed.ilcaa★gmail.com (Secretariat of the Global Mediterranean Project at ILCAA) Please change ★ to @.


15:30–15:35 Opening Remarks (Moderator: Yui Kanda[ILCAA])
15:35–16:20 Lecture by Nicoletta Fazio (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha) “A Tale of Two Cities: Displaying the Qur’ān between Berlin and Doha”
16:20–17:00 Q&A and Discussion


This is a tale of two countries, two cities, two museums, two collections, and one curator: this is my story and how I have navigated so far the many challenges around and behind the displaying the Qur’ān in public cultural institutions that function as secular entities and yet bear the much misleading label of “Museum of Islamic Art”. This lecture has its roots in the discussions and preparatory work for the exhibition Worte lesen – Worte fühlen, held at the Museum für Islamische Kunst in 2016, and the refurbishment of the permanent galleries at the Museum of Islamic Art, which includes a gallery fully dedicated to the Qur’ān and reopened to the public in 2022.

The question of sacredness and its presentation in modern-day museums has run through the field of museology for a good two decades and has become more and more cogent as museums have started redefining their missions and place within society. However, it has only been in very recent years that museums presenting artefacts produced by Islamic cultures have joined such discussion. While studies have analysed and dissected exhibition strategies, institutional politics, curatorial practices, and architectural planning as public space through a transnational perspective, less attention has been given to the actual objects involved in major museum displays and, in particular, to a category of artefacts that, by their very nature, are invested with deep holiness: Qur’ān manuscripts.

Repositories of both historical information and vectors for affective memories, Qur’āns can be tricky objects to showcase. Displays rarely give justice to its ontological complexity and historical significance, which are indeed key elements to publicly present considering today’s ramping climate of cultural misconceptions and social prejudices. In my own curatorial practice, I have tried to step away from a beautification of the object, a flattening process inherent to the becoming part of an art collection. Instead, I have often focused on the materiality of each exhibit in conversation with the rest of the display. The presentation illustrates some of the issues encountered and the solutions proposed while working within two different contexts and spaces, to meet expectations of very diverse audiences, each with their agency. This would, I hope, open the floor space to an engaging discussion to a more than ever urgent theme.