The online exhibition “Pearls of Wisdom: The Arts of Islam at the University of Michigan” was created in conjunction with the physical show presented by the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Fall 2014. It highlights the richness and diversity of Islamic art through a range of artworks held in the collections of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Objects include ceramics, glasswares, metalwares, woodwork, textiles, illustrated manuscripts, and paintings. The website serves to advertise, document, and supplement the physical exhibition; it is geared to general audiences as well as students of art and archaeology. Moreover, it also contains materials valuable for scholars, curators, conservators, and educators. The site is fully responsive and strives to provide an optimal user experience on various devices: desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
The website was implemented in three phases: 1) one-page preview, including a list of public events, 2) full site launched a week before the opening of the physical exhibition, 3) the post-show version with updated information and gallery views. All of the objects that were displayed on the physical exhibition are shown on the website, each represented by a high-quality photograph and a detailed catalogue-style description. The curators arranged the material into four major themes; users can navigate individual object pages in the suggested order, or randomly. “Related objects” links and the index provide alternative paths for navigation across the themes. The graphic design and color scheme of the site were inspired by the embroidered textile fragment, as well as by illuminated Islamic manuscripts presented on the exhibition.
As a unique feature, the online exhibition displays a series of rare archival black-and-white photographs that record various elements of Islamic architecture and landscape design. These images provide an additional dimension to the website and help contextualize some of the artworks and themes highlighted in the show. Other original resources presented on the site include two conservation videos explaining the details of textile arts and ancient glass production, educational materials, and a complete scholarly bibliography.