Tuesday, 16 September 2014

OPENING NIGHT AT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM

EXHIBITION REVIEW

BY: MEAGHAN DALBY

WELCOME BACK KIDDIES! I hope you’ve all enjoyed your first week of classes.

Without any ado - this week, my Exhibition Review will actually be an “Opening” Review. This past Friday I was lucky enough to volunteer at the VIP Opening of the Aga Khan Museum (AKM). Musings has already written about this wonderfully unique institution here , so I will not be discussing what the Museum is, but rather the historic moment I got to be a part of.

Perhaps it’s because last semester the ROM was celebrating it’s 100-year anniversary that I found myself particularly reflective over this event. Perhaps it’s because my background is in history, so I wonder how people 100 years from now will look back at the opening of the AKM. Perhaps I’m a big suck with far too many romantic notions for my own good (most likely). Either way, the entire time I was there, I couldn’t help but feel that I was witnessing museum history. Even though we weren’t allowed into the auditorium to watch His Majesty the Aga Khan or the Prime Minister give their speeches, they were live streamed for us behind the scenes. It was exactly like you would expect, both speakers made mention of the importance of pluralism and the relationship between Canada and the Ismaili communities. They cut the ribbon, and people applauded. I couldn’t find a video of the speeches, but you can read more here.

H.M. the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper unveil the plaque at the Ismaili Centre
Photo Credit: http://www.voiceonline.com/prime-minister-to-open-ismaili-centre-and-aga-khan-museum-in-toronto-on-friday/
Even though the ceremony wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, the building was full of life and excitement. There was traditional music and dancing in the atrium, cementing the idea that the AKM will not be a museum dedicated to just static art, but a place where all Islamic art is celebrated. And don’t get me started on the restaurant. It is decorated with artifacts, which lends an authentic air to the space. The chef was trained for 6 months in Turkey so he could prepare the best of the best Middle-Eastern food. The culinary arts are, after all, arts as well. (Perhaps we can plan a field trip – Irina, what do you think?)

Aga Khan Diwan Restaurant
Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/AgaKhanMuseum/status/510805646942695424/photo/1
The opening of the first museum dedicated to Islamic art in North America is an historic occasion in itself. As Prime Minister Harper said in his speech, “the wisdom of acceptance and tolerance are lessons the Canadian Ismaili community teaches still. In so doing, you have contributed to these fundamental values at the heart of our national identity.” As a frequently misunderstood religion, I could feel the drive for education and understanding at the opening of this museum dedicated to Islamic art and culture. In short, I was very moved.

The Ismaili Centre at Night
Being in this brand new space, which exudes promise, renewed my excitement about entering the work force. I know for myself, I sometimes get trapped in the idea that museums are immovable institutions which have been around forever, and making changes seems incredibly daunting. After all, what can I as a young emerging professional actually hope to do? Witnessing the birth of a brand new museum and seeing new museology in practice was incredibly uplifting. Already, the AKM is inspiring visitors (me!).  It reminded me that new things happen all the time; we will not be students forever. Who knows, maybe 25 years from now I’ll be working in my own brand new museum reflecting on a time when I was in awe of the opening at the Aga Khan Museum.

Cameron and I in front of the Museum

4 comments:

  1. This is such a symbolic start to the new semester - a new museum & a new year in the life of Musings. And a field trip to a museum restaurant? It has never crossed my mind :) Thank you for starting us up with a look at the new museum but also with a reflection on opening ceremonies as a genre of museum communication. Some food for thoughts for those in EIC :)

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  2. Thank-you for your post Meagan. What has caught my attention at this museum is that it isn't something just to be seen, but also to be experienced. The galleries, the architecture, the garden & nature, the concerts & performances, and as Irina mentioned, the food! This museum seems to not just be about history, rather, it is a part of history!

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    1. Let me also add that any visit to the museum should be coupled with a tour of the Ismaili Centre, which is the (not so hidden) gem of the complex. What am amazing place! Guidance to book your Ismaili Centre tour can be found at:
      http://www.theismaili.org/ismailicentres/toronto/visiting-toronto

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  3. Thank you for your comments! As someone shared on Twitter videos of the opening ceremonies can be found here: http://www.theismaili.org/news-events/event-journal-opening-toronto-and-aga-khan-museum

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