Symposium – Precious and Rare: Islamic Metalwork from The Courtauld

This symposium will explore curatorial, practical and public engagement aspects of The Courtauld’s touring display of Islamic metalwork to four venues in the UK. Beginning with a keynote lecture uncovering the historic importance of the works on display, the rest of the talks will reflect on the opportunities and results achieved in each instance, alongside the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 emergency. As such, the event will be of particular interest to students in the humanities and colleagues in the museum and heritage sector, from curators and collection managers to educators and public engagement professionals. 

Organised by Dr Alexandra Gerstein (The Courtauld), Dr Francesca Leoni (Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford) and Dr Federica Gigante (History of Science Museum, University of Oxford). 

Event programme 

Welcoming Remarks 

Dr Alexandra Gerstein, McQueens Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Courtauld &
Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Islamic art and Material Culture SSN. 

Keynote: Uncovering the inlays  

Professor James Allan, Emeritus Professor of Eastern Art, University of Oxford 

The Courtauld’s collection of inlaid Islamic metalwork is very small but consists of a group of exquisite pieces. Not only are they a joy in themselves, but they are also rich with associations, and lend themselves to small exhibitions on particular themes. These stretch from collectors, like Thomas Gambier Parry, who gathered these pieces together, to how such inlaid objects were actually made, by whom they were made (one is signed by Mahmud al-Kurdi – but who was he?), how they were traded and used (and their use varied in different cultures!), and the artistic significance of their decoration. These are some of the ‘inlays’ which we can uncover, ‘inlays’ whose themes we can draw out to enthuse and educate our audiences and visitors. 

Panel of five talks 

Moderated by Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford  

‘Precious and Rare’: Layouts, Logistics and Lockdowns 
Amy Graves (Exhibition Registrar, The Courtauld)

Islamic Metalwork in Bradford: Heritage, Culture and People
Sonja Kielty (Volunteer Co-ordinator, Libraries, Museums and Galleries, Bradford Museums and Galleries)

Cultures in Conversation: Volunteers and Community Engagement at the History of Science Museum 
Federica Gigante (Curator of the Collection from the Islamic World, History of Science Museum, University of Oxford) 

Curating ‘Precious and Rare’ at the Holburne Museum during the Covid-19 crisis 
Sylvie Broussine (Assistant Curator, The Holburne Museum, Bath)  

Discussion and Q&A 

Closing remarks

Professor Sussan Babaie, Professor of the Arts of Iran and Islam, The Courtauld. 


4:00pm, 26 Nov 2020