The nineteenth century art historian Gustave Friedrich Waagen once said that, ‘a museum’s role was to first delight, then instruct.’ For over a hundred and forty years, no museum has embodied that ambitious goal better than the Met. The Metropolitan prides itself on having, representing five thousand years of world culture. Really everyone who visits our galleries can find something about where they came from and their origins. And amongst our vast encyclopedic holdings, we have the largest collection of Islamic art in the western world. We are opening fifteen renovated galleries of art from the Arab lands; Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. And this is a culmination of an eight year project which will enable us not only to show many works of art that people have seen before in the past but also in expanded space to show more than we have ever shown Well, as a member of the Muslim community myself, I’m so deeply impressed and moved by the fact that this institution has given this much space, this much commitment, this much money, this much hard work, this much talent to taking the heritage of the Islamic world and presenting it in the best possible way. I think that one of things that a museum, especially a space like this is going to do, is going to help bring people together. Where Muslims can come and talk about their art and their heritage. Where non-Muslims can come and see art and heritage from other civilizations and look at that impact, you know. That they can look at it and ‘oh, this stringed instrument,’ and look at a lute in the room next door from Europe, and say, ‘oh, these are the same instruments and these communities were getting along together a thousand years ago so why are we not getting along together now?’ And so I think it’s a great way to open these conversations. It’s thrilling for us to be able to reintegrate
these collections with the rest of our collections but in particular because of the Arab Spring. I think there’s such international attention on the Middle East at the moment and these galleries help us to tell a more nuanced, a more complex story about this part of the world that is not just seen through the reductive lens of contemporary politics. The partnership between the State Department and the Met is a new one. But together we will ensure that students, scholars, and art lovers of all ages worldwide can experience everything that these galleries have to offer. Our focus on youth education and community outreach will bring uniquely American content from a leading American museum to the world. The great treasures, everything from the historical manuscripts, the textiles, all these wonderful objects will now find a broader audience through the outreach that is being done by the Department of State and through the embassies around the world. It’s a really thrilling collaboration for us and a first.