Before the widespread adoption of print in the Islamic world during the 19th century, texts were preserved in handwritten manuscripts. The most deluxe manuscripts were lavishly decorated, executed on paper of the highest quality, and bound in exquisitely crafted bindings. Those containing literary texts are sometimes illustrated, and like expertly cut gems, their pictures have many facets that contribute to a brilliant overall effect. Combining visual, textual, and tactile elements, such books were designed to be repeatedly enjoyed and consulted, alone or in intimate group settings.
Many illustrated manuscripts do not survive intact. Some were damaged after years of heavy use, and are known today only through fragments or individual folios. In other cases, illustrations were purposefully separated and sold as individual paintings. Many museums display such detached illustrations as isolated, framed works of art. However, this is not how they were originally meant to be appreciated. Remastered includes eleven stations, each devoted to a single illustrated manuscript, either preserved intact in the Aga Khan Museum, or represented in the Collection by several detached illustrations.
For Remastered, the Aga Khan Museum has partnered with Ryerson University Library to create immersive digital engagements with manuscripts and paintings from our Collection, bringing a 21st-century perspective on 15th- to 17th-century works of art.
These digital interventions offer new ways of seeing and understanding illustrated manuscripts, activating their pictures through motion, expanding them into three dimensions, adding layers of context and interactivity, and even reversing the passage of time.
Showcased throughout the exhibition are four different styles of digital interventions:
- 3-D – Holographic translations of 2-D works on paper to 3-D environments, enhancing our comprehension of the spatial logic in Persian, Ottoman, and Mughal painting
- Animation – Activating illustrations to create a visually dynamic effect, comparable to the viewing experience of these lustrous paintings by flickering candlelight centuries ago
- Restoration – Digitally restoring damaged art works, to approximate how the illustrations looked when they were first completed
Our collaboration with Ryerson University Library reveals how cutting-edge technology can be harnessed to deepen our understandings of works of art, opening new perspectives on historical masterpieces.
Ryerson University Library TeamMichael Carter-Arlt
Immersive Technology Specialist, Ryerson University Library
Jae Duk Seo
Graduate Assistant, Ryerson University Library
Web Development and Technical Support
Head – Library Information Technology Services,
Ryerson University Library
Web Services Librarian, Ryerson University Library