Excavation‐Investigation‐Presentation: Problems of Representing Past Cultures in the Example of the Mshatta Facade

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The international standing of the Museum for Islamic Art ultimately rests upon the Mshatta facade, one of the first architectural monuments to be exhibited on the Museum Island. The transportation of the facade to Berlin in 1904 occasioned the institution of an Islamic Department within the museums, and this subsequently provided an important impetus to the study of Islamic art. The controversy surrounding the temporal classification of the relief ornament encouraged further research into Islamic art, which now had the support of archaeological fieldwork. These excavations not only provided a more accurate picture of the development of Islamic art, but also resulted in an expansion of the Berlin collections. Despite its significance in terms of museum history, the Mshatta facade was always an example of the difficulties associated with presenting monumental architecture in a museum context. Since the interior spaces of the museum necessitated compromises from the perspective of monument preservation, various concepts were formulated in order to facilitate an axial presentation of the facade. These efforts find their continuation in a project that is currently under discussion, the transfer of the Mshatta facade to the north wing of the Pergamon Museum.

Keywords: Berlin; Bode Museum; Islamic art; Jordan; Mshatta facade; Pergamon Museum; museology; museum presentation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175613110X12809366532307

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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