A Middle Eastern Odyssey: From Constantinople to Palmyra. Online exhibition


Special Collections, University of Otago


16th March, 2018


‘The Middle East is where three continents meet, where empires have waxed and waned, merchants have long traded and warriors have long clashed.’
Lonely Planet Guide, 2003

An imaginary circle that encompasses modern day Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel provides the boundaries for this exhibition on the Middle East. The lands beyond the borders of Turkey and Iran are excluded. The catalyst for this exhibition was the inventory of Middle Eastern and Islamic language materials compiled recently by Dr Majid Daneshgar, former lecturer at Theology and Religion at the University of Otago, now University of Freiburg, Germany. A number of Arabic, Urdu, Persian, and Turkish language books and manuscripts feature. The printed books are scarce; the manuscripts unique. They are mainly from the collection of the Rev. William Arderne Shoults (1839-1887). There are also some modern publications in the exhibition. These are mainly from the library of Charles Brasch (1903-1973), who was an archaeological field assistant at Tell el Amarna, Egypt, from 1933 to 1935.
The choice travel and history books displayed not only help contextualise the language-based items, but also convey a wider picture and greater understanding on this area of the world, a region that has not only been called ‘the cradle of civilisation’, but also the ‘fertile crescent’. Indeed, the Middle East was once the greatest, most advanced and most open civilisation in history (Bernard Lewis).
The exhibition offers an overview of the Middle East. Importantly, it is historical, with those items displayed grounded in a past stretching back to antiquity.


Special Collections, University of Otago

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