The Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum for Islamic Art) is a reference museum in the German-speaking world for the artistic, architectural and archaeological heritage of Islamicate regions. Founded in 1904, it belongs to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. The collection spans across various regions and epochs. Together with the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities) and the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East), it is located in the Pergamonmuseum on the Museumsinsel Berlin, which creates a panorama of an interrelated global and cultural history. We offer a variety of approaches to the art and cultural history of Islamicate regions and provide a space for as many as 1 million visitors annually for the opportunity to enjoy outstanding art objects and architecture.
Being the oldest museum of Islamic art outside Islamicate regions, our museum houses around 100,000 historical objects. They originate from the Mediterranean region (Southern Europe, North Africa, West Asia) as well as Central and South Asia and were created between the 7th and 19th centuries. The collection is made up of monumental architecture and of objects, either from archaeological excavations or acquired on the art market. Associated documentation, a historically grown photo archive and scientific bequests add to the museum’s strong archival material. This range reflects exchange relations with the countries of origin during a long and varied history, which we actively research and make transparent. By now, the collection has been expanded by contemporary artistic works that enter into dialogue with the historical objects in the exhibition.
The research and archaeological excavations by the Museum für Islamische Kunst laid the foundation for the emergence of the scientific disciplines of Islamic Art History and Archaeology. As an internationally renowned and well-connected research centre with an outstanding special library, we remain an excellent location for science to this day.
Our team is characterised by a broad spectrum of expertise and competences. We are also closely integrated with a local and international network of museums and institutional cooperation partners, researchers, collectors and patrons. A dynamic friends’ association (Freunde des Museums für Islamische Kunst im Pergamonmuseum e.V.) and an honorary advisory board support the museum.
We collect and preserve
The collection of the Museum für Islamische Kunst forms the core and focal point of our work. It is constantly being expanded in accordance with the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Convention and preserved, documented and made accessible for present and future generations. We are committed to preserving the collection through conservation and restoration according to the latest scientific standards as well as measures to prevent damage. We actively engage in combating the illegal trade in art objects. We work in international networks to preserve and document tangible and intangible cultural heritage locally and to make it accessible in museums. This also includes award-winning capacity building measures with partner museums.
In our permanent exhibition, we make cultural heritage accessible and display around 500 objects of high artistic value and historical interest, many of them unique. We narrate their history (histories), which allow for new perspectives on Islamicate regions, artistic and scientific achievements, and societal life characterised by diversity in a historical lens.
It is important for us to emphasise the social diversity of Islamicate regions as well as the historical and cultural connections between the Mediterranean region (Southern Europe, North Africa, West Asia), Central Asia and South Asia. The latter continue to shape cultural life in Central Europe to this day. Within the framework of an active exhibition programme, also outside Germany, a variety of topics can be explored in depth.
As an internationally renowned research centre, we work in the fields of art and cultural studies, archaeology, conservation science, object provenance as well as museum and scientific history. Our activities cover a broad spectrum, ranging from object-based research that incorporates scientific and analytical methods with critical examinations of object provenance and collection history. In doing so, we are committed to transparency. This includes making results visible and consistently dealing with critical facts.
We see great importance in exchanging ideas with international colleagues and actively supporting research stays by visiting scholars. Among other projects, by participating in funding programmes and by initiating cooperation projects with researchers in the objects' regions of origin we gain a better better snese of our collection at hand. Another major concern of ours is the active promotion of young academics.
In addition, we conduct practice-oriented research in the areas of mediation and participation. These are closely interwoven with the museum's mediation and outreach practice. The research results are made accessible through publications - print and online.
We are digitising
We strive to continuously expand our digital portfolio for a variety of users and to develop new formats. Over 11,000 collection items have already been digitised and made accessible online. Increasingly, the museum's important image archive on the cultural heritage of the countries of origin is also being digitally indexed and published. We are continuing this process. In addition, many of the projects we have initiated made their results and materials available online. Within the framework of cultural preservation projects, we are developing specialised databases for scientific research that provides online participatory access to a broad public.
We reach out
Within the framework of our education and outreach programme, we prepare the contents of our exhibitions for the general public as well as for specific target groups with the help of different formats, media and thematic focuses. Knowledge generated from both collection-related and application-oriented research flows into this work.
We enable participation
Within the framework of our national and international award-winning outreach projects, we have strengthened the cultural participation of diverse target groups to develop new content in order to give space for different perspectives and narratives. Through workshops and participatory projects, we improve possibilities to access the objects and content of the museum. Consequently, we have contributed to differentiated opinion-forming processes about the art and culture of Islamicate regions and ultimately to questions about our own identity and society.
We have cultivated a friendly and collegial working environment in which different expertise and perspectives are recognised and valued. Transparent structures and decision-making processes are important to us. This also includes independence from contractors and third-party funding sources.
We consider working on an equal footing in every area to be very important. Structural inequalities, today as yesterday, are the subject of our research. Countering them is the motivation for our work. We see social diversity as an enrichment and promote it in all areas of our museum. We want to strengthen the joy of discovery, eliminate prejudice, resist fear, question supposed certainties and support the recognition of commonalities and things that connect us.
We oppose statements, actions and structures that degrade people in views of racism or undermine individuals due to ethnic origin, gender, religion or ideology, disability, age or sexual identity. Accordingly, the museum has set itself the task of firmly incorporating social plurality into its programming in a new focus of its work. We are working nationwide to promote inclusive ideas of identity.
As a public cultural and research institution, we see ourselves as having a social responsibility. This is why we are increasingly approaching local actors to establish the museum together with them as an open place in Berlin society.
We are constantly developing our exhibition and programme concepts and want to offer our visitors diverse and innovative access to the objects and themes of our exhibitions on different levels. At the same time, we want to enable multisensory experiences, heighten curiosity, raise questions and provide spaces for their discussion.
Whether large or small, old or young: we cordially invite you to explore the objects in the museum and their history (histories), to enjoy their beauty, to discover new things and to see the familiar with different eyes.
The Mshatta Room will be closed to visitors from 21 February 2022. The Façade of the Caliph’s Palace of Mshatta, the centrepiece and audience highlight of the Museum für Islamische Kunst, will be restored as part of ongoing renovation work at the Pergamonmuseum. The restoration will be carried out at a publicly viewable construction site in the future.