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PROFESSOR DR STEFAN WEBER is the director of the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon in Berlin. Previously, he was assistant professor of material culture at Aga Khan University in London. Between 1996 and 2007 he was a research fellow at the German Archaeological Institute in Damascus and at the Orient-Institute Beirut. He currently organises the re-conceptualisation of the Museum of Islamic Art, which explores new grounds in communicating the legacy of art, architecture and archaeology of the Islamic Middle East. His focus lies on the accessibility of the museum for the general public starting several community programs, the one on refugees as guides for newcomers (Multaka) won several awards. He curated larger exhibitions and directed research, an award-winning restoration and documentation projects on cities and the cultural heritage of the Middle East. His academic profile combines the fields of material culture and Islamic art and history in projects ranging from the Umayyad period to early modern cities in Syria and Lebanon. Weber is a member of the international board of the Congress of Turkish Art, corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute, member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites and other organisations. He has published widely on Middle Eastern heritage and is honorary professor at the Free University Berlin.
SACRED SPACES AND SECULAR PLACES – THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS OBJECTS IN MUSEUMS OF ISLAMIC ART TODAY
Most of the larger collections of Islamic art have been, or still are, undergoing reorganization. New galleries have been established. Museums and galleries have increasingly become important forums for public interest in Muslim cultures and do touch on the intersection of museums as secular places and objects of sacred spaces. The specific challenges of globally changing societies and the growing presence of Muslims in many countries of Europe and northern America assign collections of Islamic art with new duties and responsibilities. Visitors come to the museum to find answers to today’s questions. They ask new questions on culture and religion. In spite of that, there has been little discussion on content, categories of order, and the new role of these museums. Which role do religious objects in these museums play. The Museum for Islamic Art Berlin is one of the major collections of its kind in the world and the only one in the German-speaking countries. As the oldest Islamic art museum in the West the museum is an internationally renowned research center and archive of the heritages of the Middle East. Each year up to a million visitors experience the rich cultural legacy of the Muslim world. We care for our past and for our common future. The museum has won several awards for its programs on cultural education, migration, heritage preservation and training-cooperation with the Arab world.