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Oriental Manuscripts at the University of Michigan (slides)
Middle East Libraries Committee (MELCom) International (2018)
  • Roberta L. Dougherty, Yale University
This paper tells the story of the birth and growth of the collection of Islamic manuscripts at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA). While the story has interest in its own right, this paper will also attempt to situate it in the larger story of the collecting of antiquities by Orientalists that began in Europe, first by wealthy dilettantes and royalty, then by museums as they began to grow and be established in the nineteenth century, and continued along similar lines in the young United States by wealthy industrialists and the museums and universities they patronized. Also having a significant hand in this story are university scholars and other learned individuals with antiquarian interests and connections to wealthy patrons, whose activities built collections of antiquities in a way that is no longer possible today. The University of Michigan owns some 1,790 manuscript titles in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, making it the sixth-largest such collection in the United States. Most of this collection came to the university in the 1920s and 1930s in four large chunks. The collections have been described in more or less detail in several published sources on Islamic manuscript collections; however, many errors of fact crept into these descriptions that were repeated in later publications. Thus, another objective of this paper is to reconstruct the story of the development of this collection and to correct these errors. My research follows on from work that I began in the library's administrative archives in 1991. The story of the growth of Michigan's collection of Islamic manuscripts is part of the larger story of an institution of higher education that was already over a century old but beginning to flex its institutional muscles as it sought to define its identity and role in competition with older (and wealthier) private institutions on the Atlantic coast of the United States, as well as in Europe.
  • University of Michigna,
  • Islamic manuscripts,
  • Francis W. Kelsey,
  • library collections,
  • collections
Publication Date
Summer June 20, 2018
Budapest, Hungary
Citation Information
Roberta L. Dougherty. "Oriental Manuscripts at the University of Michigan (slides)" Middle East Libraries Committee (MELCom) International (2018)
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