, Salem, MA

November 29, 2013

Author to discuss Islamic visual culture at Salem State

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — The Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, which is available at the Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons at Salem State University and Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, contains 25 books on the history and culture of Islam.

But the collection, which is a program of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, also includes seven video Art Spots on Islamic visual arts.

These include discussions of calligraphy, Islamic gardens and Islamic textiles, which last around 10 minutes and can be viewed online at

“Oftentimes, we don’t think about the cultural components of Islam,” said Zachary Newell, a reference and instruction librarian at Salem State’s library. “We always hear about political strife, but there’s a very rich artistic legacy at work here.”

The video which discusses “The Arts of the Book and Miniature Painting” will be complemented by a lecture at Salem State’s library on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 3:30 p.m., “Artistic Impressions: European Prints at an Islamic Royal Court” by Yael Rice, who teaches at Amherst and Hampshire colleges.

“She specializes in Islamic art and architecture,” Newell said. “It’s essentially manuscript, or miniature painting from the Mughal empire, in India, from the 16th into the 17th century.”

Newell, who has doctoral degrees in both art history and library science, got firsthand experience in bridging the divide between East and West when he worked at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt last spring.

That library was a resurrection of its famous predecessor, which was founded in the third century B.C. and was destroyed several times by invaders.

“They rebuilt their library for just over $220 million and reopened it in 2002,” Newell said. “I was working with the arts in multimedia library, helping with programming, bringing in speakers, and I gave some art appreciation talks.”

Rice is one in a series of speakers Newell is bringing in to address topics relating to the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf.

“Even though it seems scholarly, Yael will do a great job of connecting with a general audience,” Newell said. “She’ll frame it in a general context.”