As you explore Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads, you will encounter books, scrolls, manuscript paintings, and textiles that shaped — not just documented — life along one of history’s most important trade networks and beyond. Like a spellbinding tale, the artifacts on display will fire your imagination, transporting you to far-away lands and times.
From a 1,000-year-old prayer sheet from northwestern China to a five-metre-long Iranian scroll of the Qur’an, or a richly coloured Jewish marriage contract from 19th-century Greece, each of these artistic marvels tells a story about the community where it originated as well as their links with other cultures.
You will also glimpse into the lives of craftspeople behind the making of books along the Silk Roads. Tools of the bookmaking trade — from a silver-inlaid bronze inkwell from 12th-century Iran to wooden moveable type from 18th-century Korea — reveal how ideas were physically recorded so they could travel across space and time.
Taking the exhibition-going experience to another level are digital interventions that open new windows onto the artistic wonders on display. These include:
Though Hidden Stories examines a vast network of trade routes spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa, each of its historical artifacts comes from an Ontario-based collection. Featured in the exhibition are rarely displayed works from the Aga Khan Museum’s permanent Collection along with objects generously loaned by the Royal Ontario Museum, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Western University, and the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection.
Considered on their own, each of these works sheds light onto a time and place in history. Assembled together, they tell vivid, soaring stories about the intercultural exchange of technology, art, and ideas, the ingenuity of human beings, and a millennia-old worldwide love affair with books that continues today.
Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip, Aga Khan Museum, and
Dr. Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.)
Presented in collaboration with