Viennese museums possess outstanding works of art from the Islamic world in
their collections. However, the general public is not aware of them, and many
objects are not even known to scholars in the field. Most of Vienna’s Islamic
art is kept in storage and the few objects which are on display are presented
with hardly any indication of their historical, regional or artistic context.
Exhibitions of Islamic art are rare. The hurdles one has to overcome to get
access to Islamic art also make it difficult to use objects of Viennese
collections for teaching purposes.
The Virtual Museum offers a solution. It allows us to digitally assemble works of art from collections with different orientations and agendas and to bring them together in a new and meaningful context.
I undertook a first step into this direction with the students who attended my seminar “Ein virtuelles Museum islamischer Kunst in Wien” (“ A Virtual Museum of Islamic Art in Vienna”) of the Institute of Art History, at Vienna University, held in the autumn terms of 2005/06 and 2006/07. We selected outstanding Islamic objects or group of objects from various Viennese collections and viewed and discussed them in situ in a dialogue with their curators. Most of them welcomed our project wholeheartedly. We analysed the historical and art-historical relevance of the art works, studied their regional significance, tried to establish their origin and attempted to find out how they reached Vienna. We were lucky to have a talented web designer among the participants in our seminar, Amely Hasauer, and it is due to her largely voluntary efforts that all this information can now be accessed at <museumislamischerkunst.net>
Our project represents, then a network which brings together various “players” the university, museums, young academics and established scholars. It makes it possible for students to carry out meaningful projects of social relevance.
After we presented our website in June 2006 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a translation into English was discussed and we found a partner in the Institut für Translationswissenschaften ( Center for Translation Studies), Vienna University.
We thank the Kunsthistorisches Museum, especially Dr. Helmut Trnek (Kunstkammer) und Dr. Matthias Pfaffenbichler (Rüstkammer); the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, especially Prof. Dr. Ernst Gamillscheg (Handschriftensammlung); the Dom-und Diözesanmuseum, especially Direktor Gerhard Ederndorfer; the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, especially Mag. Richard Hufschmied; the Wien Museum Karlsplatz, especially Direktor Dr. Wolfgang Kos and Mag. Walter Öhlinger; the Schatzkammer des Deutschen Ordens, especially Dr Raphael Beuing, and the Museum für angewandte Kunst (MAK) especially Dr. Angela Völker and Dr. Johannes Wieninger.
We are also thank the museums and collections who provided pictures and allowed us to reproduce them.