New Strategies, Approaches and Responses in Representing Islamic Art


17th January 2020 | 18:30 - 20:00


Panelists: John Reeve, Claire Dobbin & Melissa Forstrom

Moderator: Peter Ride


This panel explores new approaches to the representation of Islamic art in the Middle East and the West. Focusing on specific examples of exhibition strategies, modes of display and approaches to interpretation, the panel speakers explore the complexity and nuance of museological representation, in the light of new opportunities, contemporary politics and global concerns.


Dr Peter Ride is the Course Leader for the Masters in Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster. 

Peter has worked in a wide range of museums and arts organisations in the UK with a particular emphasis on photography, digital media and interdisciplinary arts projects. His research addresses multi-sensory experiences in museums and how participatory projects can enable multicultural visitor engagement. His international research includes projects in Qatar, Uzbekistan, Australia and Canada.


John Reeve: His perspective is that of a historian, museum educator and museum trainer, having worked in national museums and universities in the UK and on projects in Egypt, Kuwait and Qatar, including the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. What can we learn from US, European and Arab world museums about effective representation, and how do we measure its impact?

John Reeve has written extensively on religions in museums most recently ‘Islam, Islamic art, the Islamic world – and museums’ in ed. Knell, ‘The Contemporary Museum- shaping museums for the global now’, Routledge 2018; and in ‘Museums, Equality and Social Justice’ eds. Sandell and Nightingale, Routledge 2012, and ‘Religion in Museums’ eds. Buggeln, Paine and Plate ,Bloomsbury 2017. He edited the catalogue for ‘Sacred’ a major exhibition at the British Library in 2007, on Judaism, Islam and Christianity. ‘The Lives of the Mughal Emperors’ accompanied an exhibition at the British Library in 2012.

He has worked at the British Museum UCL IOE and worldwide as a museum educator, trainer and consultant.


Claire Dobbin: Incense burners, rosewater sprinklers, and perfume containers are a staple component of any Islamic art collection. Crafted for millennia - to diffuse, transport, apply and amplify scent - exquisite examples now reside, inactive, in museum stores and display cases worldwide. Claire will talk about how new approaches to interpretation can reactivate the olfactory - the “missing sense” from conventional museum interpretations of scent-related objects and narratives - to reunite these historic artworks with the powerful scentscapes and enduring relevance of their sensory contexts.  

Claire Dobbin is a freelance curator and interpretation specialist. She has worked with museums in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as in the UK, where she is a visiting lecturer for the MA in Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster. Her recent research focuses on the impact and benefits of multisensory visitor experiences. She has delivered conference papers and museum-based training on this subject in Jordan, Qatar, Taiwan, the US and UK, including at last year’s Museums in Arabia conference. Her most recent publication, ‘Engaging the Olfactory: Scent in the Arts, Cultures and Museums of the Islamic World’ (The Multisensory Image, Taylor & Francis, 2019) is part of ongoing research in collaboration with Dr Leslee Michelsen, the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design in Honolulu. 


Melissa Forstrom: Establishing the connection that exhibitions of Islamic art have often been conflated with contemporary socio-politics both historically and contemporarily, Forstrom surveys the museological responses to the Muslim travel ban at the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Although these responses have for the most part been praised, this presentation explores potential ramifications of modern and contemporary art from Middle East and North Africa to represent the contemporary experiences of Muslim peoples, migration or the lack thereof in exhibition spaces.

Dr. Melissa Forstrom is an Assistant Professor at Purchase College- State University of New York. Her current research project documents and analyzes the changing interpretation in Islamic art exhibition in the United States, Europe and Asia. She has been invited to lecture about her research at The New School, Johns Hopkins, the University of Leicester, University of Oslo, Humboldt University-Berlin, University of Westminster, and the University of Wales. 

Melissa has also been invited to speak at numerous arts organizations including: Darat al Funun (Amman), Detroit Institute of the Arts, Museum of Fine Arts- Boston, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and the New York Public Library amongst others. She has presented research at conferences in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Russia, and recently published an article in the Media Fields journal.


Tickets: £1-£5




The event is supported by HUB Collective.