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Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads


Videos, lectures, and roundtable discussions relating to objects in the Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads exhibition

Three Ethiopian Christian Objects

Ethiopian manuscripts scholar Eyob Derillo (British Library), in conversation with Melissa Moreton (IAS, Princeton), explores three Christian Ethiopian objects in the Hidden Stories exhibition – including an amulet scroll made for a female patron who is named in the text. Derillo contextualizes these objects and explains how they are used historically and today by modern-day Ethiopians, part of a long-standing tradition of manuscript production and use in Ethiopia that dates to the earliest centuries of the Christian era. The cloth-covered manuscript with carrying case, amulet scroll used for healing, and bookstand are on loan from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

Brief introduction to the Ethiopian Christian objects in the exhibition with Eyob Derillo of the British Library.

Conversation between Eyob Derillo and Melissa Moreton exploring the Ethiopian Christian objects in the exhibition.

A Baptismal Register from Mexico City

David Fernández (Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto), in conversation with Suzanne Conklin Akbari (IAS, Princeton), discusses an 18th-century baptismal register recording names and baptism dates of Indigenous children in the Mexico City parish of San Sebastian. In the colonial period, Catholic Church parishes kept separate record books for communities of Indigenous, African, Spanish, and mixed descent. These details provide insight into the social history of a diversity of communities in the period.

Brief introduction to the Mexican baptismal register in the exhibition with David Fernández of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Toronto.

Conversation between David Fernández and Suzanne Akbari exploring the Mexican baptismal register in the exhibition.

Two Islamic Amulets

Humans have sought protection from pain, harm, and negative forces since time immemorial. In Muslim lands, invocations to God and verses from the Qur’an are believed to be especially protective, and so appear on various objects over the centuries. Art historian Christiane Gruber (University of Michigan) explores two such amulets in the Aga Khan Museum collection, made to safeguard their owners and wearers: a tiny 11th-century Egyptian printed sheet of paper and a large 19th-century Iranian talismanic chart inked on gazelle skin. Their Arabic-script written and geometric contents also appear on coins, arms and armor, and talismanic shirts, revealing a larger material urge to bring spiritual blessings in close proximity to—and, at times, even absorption into—the physical body.

“That the prefecture may be tranquil”: A Thousand-Year-Old Buddhist Print from Dunhuang

Curator Wen-chien Cheng (Royal Ontario Museum), Jessica Lockhart (Head of Research at the Old Books New Science Lab, University of Toronto), and Amanda Goodman (Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies, University of Toronto) discuss a 10th-century Buddhist prayer sheet from the region of Dunhuang, China. Dunhuang was a key point along the trading routes of the Silk Roads and is also home to spectacular Buddhist caves, known as the Mogao Caves, which were active between the 4th and 14th centuries. These caves contained a vast amount of Buddhist art as well as a hidden library of texts in more than twelve languages. The prayer sheet, part of this hidden library, is one of several dozen surviving prints commemorating a summer festival held at the site in the year 947 CE. Goodman and Lockhart describe its history and explain how current scientific techniques can help us understand historical objects. This important print is featured in the Aga Khan Museum exhibition “Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads”.

Hidden Stories Lecture - YMCA-Aga Khan Museum "Mindfulness and Education" Series

Curator Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip takes viewers on a virtual tour of the Aga Khan Museum exhibition "Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads". Featuring breathtaking scrolls, books, manuscript paintings, and textiles dating from as far back as the 10th century CE, this exhibition challenges viewers to think of the book as a revolutionary technology that shaped — not just documented — transformative moments in human history.

You can find more videos on textiles, manuscripts, and other related topics here