Museums are no longer merely repositories of culture, but vital educational institutions that can have a profound effect on public discourse. Museums can testify to the existence of other cultures and faiths in ways that go beyond the written or spoken word. They provide evidence of other realities, other histories and other influences beyond the ones we might have learned or perceived.
At their best, museums champion diversity, pluralism, the exchange of ideas and the enrichment of the intellect. Exhibitions provide tools for communication. Objects in an exhibition are like a code which can be deciphered through careful study. Through the reality of objects, we learn about other cultures. And through the language of objects, we find a common understanding. From understanding comes the revelation of a common humanity – one that dotes on its children, loves and fears the loss of love, struggles with the obstacles of youth and then of age, pursues knowledge and meaning and that, eventually, yearns for transcendence.
The Aga Khan Museum, which opened in Toronto in 2013, is a centre of education and learning dedicated to the presentation of Muslim arts and culture in all their historic, cultural and geographical diversity. Manuscripts in the collection will include the earliest known copy of Avicenna’s Qanun fi’l-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine) dated 1052.
The museum is part of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s wide range of activities aimed at the preservation and promotion of the material and spiritual heritage of Muslim societies.