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Office of News & Public Affairs

Book By BC Professors Selected for Inclusion in New Nationwide Collection of Muslim Resources

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Sheila Blair


CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (January 2013) -- An acclaimed book by Norma Jean Calderwood Chairs of Islamic and Asian Art Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom has been selected for inclusion in an important new collection which will provide the public with resources about Muslim beliefs and practices, and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.

They were notified by the National Endowment for the Humanities that their 1997 volume, Islamic Arts, will be part of a nationwide project of the NEH and the American Library Association. More than 800 libraries and state humanities councils in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands will be awarded the “Muslim Journeys” Bookshelf, part of the NEH’s Bridging Cultures initiative.

Blair and Bloom said of this distinction: “We are thrilled that our book, Islamic Arts, has been selected for inclusion in the NEH initiative 'Bridging Cultures' and will be sent to nearly a thousand libraries and other educational institutions around the country. We've been studying and writing about Islamic art for forty years and we've always tried to communicate our knowledge and enthusiasm to the broadest possible audience. Since we've been at BC we've seen the field of Islamic studies blossom.  It's gratifying to see that the central role of the arts has been recognized and that our approach in making Islamic art accessible has been validated.”

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Jonathan Bloom

Blair and Bloom’s book is part of the curated collection chosen by a team of scholars and librarians for its potential to offer readers new and diverse perspectives on the histories and cultures of Muslim societies.

Islamic Arts captures the essence of Islamic culture, according to its publisher. The comprehensive survey covers a thousand years and highlights characteristics that connect the various arts of the Islamic lands.

The “Muslim Journeys” Bookshelf collection comprises 25 books, three documentary films, and a series of seven short videos, “Islamic Art Spots.”

In addition to the collection, recipient institutions have public performance rights to the films and free access for a year to Oxford Islamic Studies Online. A companion website will be launched to provide more ways for the public to access resources which enhance the Bookshelf offerings. 

Selected institutions—public libraries and public library systems, community college libraries and academic libraries—applied for the Bookshelf though a grant process.

The NEH also will accept applications from libraries for grants to support public programming using the Bookshelf’s titles. The awards will enable libraries to purchase multiple copies of the books and host community reading and discussion programs on the history and culture of Muslim societies.

Blair and Bloom have been asked by the NEH to participate in programs related to the initiative.

Prolific authors who have collaborated on other projects, the wife-and-husband team of scholars are among the world’s leading experts in the field.

Support for the project, the NEH notes, was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, with additional support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The NEH also cites contributions from the following partners: the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, American Library Association Public Programs Office, Oxford University Press, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and Twin Cities Public Television.

According to the NEH, the Bridging Cultures initiative “engages the power of the humanities to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures and perspectives." 

--Rosanne Pellegrini, Office of News & Public Affairs, rosanne.pellegrini@bc.edu