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The New Aga Khan Museum in Toronto

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Explore the Medieval Collection

09 January 2017 | T. Russo

The Aga Khan Museum opened its doors three years ago in 2014 and has earned a reputation as one of the most significant cultural institutions and learning centres in Toronto. The museum sites on a seven-hectare site that features gallery space, auditorium, courtyard, restaurant, and a gift shop. The museum also houses a large collection of Medieval artefacts and art that can be used in the classroom to teach components of Ancient Civilizations, such as daily life and the changes of communication technologies by comparing the use of inkwells below and studying other writing objects to the way we communicate today or document our thoughts on paper and on social media. The museum also documents the production of manuscripts from Iran and Iraq in the 13th century with beautiful illumanated folios and codex.

INKWELL (Accession Number:AKM605; Place:Iran, Khurasan; Dimensions:14 x 10.2 cm; Date:12th-13th century; Materials and Technique:bronze, silver-inlaid)

Information from the Curator: "Known in Arabic as mihbara and in Persian as dawat, inkwells were common tools used by scribes in the medieval Islamic world, along with pen boxes(see AKM609) and other writing implements (see AKM622).[1] This inkwell [2] may once have held black ink manufactured from a mixture of oak galls and metal.[3] The two handles situated either side of the inkwell’s body may have been used as slots for a handle or sling, facilitating the object’s transport.[4]"

NOTES: [1] Baer, Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art, 66–67.

[2] Relevant publications by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture concerning this object

include Chefs-d'oeuvre islamiques de l'Aga Khan museum: accompagne l'exposition

organisée a Paris, musée du Louvre, du 5 octobre 2007 au 7 janvier 2008 (Milan; Paris:

2007), 164–65, no. 58; Spirit and Life: Masterpieces of Islamic Art from the Aga Khan

Museum Collection (Geneva: 2007), 127, no. 91; Splendori a Corte: Arti del Mondo

Islamico (Geneva: 2007), 124, no. 91; and Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of

the Book & Calligraphy (Geneva; Istanbul: 2010), 136, no. 58.

[3] Déroche, Manuel de codicologie des manuscrits en écriture arabe, 120.

[4] Graves, The Arts of Allusion, 109.

See firther information about this object in Collections: Inkwell,

INKWELL (Accession Number:AKM604; Place:Iran, Khurasan; Dimensions:8.5 cm x 10.4 cm; Date:12th-13th century; Materials and Technique:bronze, silver-inlaid);

Information from the Curator: "Known in Arabic as mihbara and in Perisan as dawat, inkwells were common tools used by scribes in the medieval Islamic world, along with pen boxes (see AKM609) and other writing implements (see AKM622)." Learn more about this artefact:

PRINTED AMULET WITH BOX (Accession Number:AKM508; Place:Egypt; Dimensions:Amulet 7.2 x 5.5 cm; Case 2.7 x 1.3 cm; Date:11th century; Materials and Technique:Paper, lead;

Information from the Curator: "Intended to bring good fortune to its owner, this miniature paper amulet has been folded many times to reduce its size, making it easy to wear and transport within its lead case. It belongs to a body of talismanic objects made in the medieval Mediterranean that do not merely include handwritten texts and symbols, but rather incorporates Qur’anic verses, prayers, and designs. Both script and symbol were likely executed with a block print or die (tarsh). Its lead case likely had lugs (now lost) which enabled the amulet to be sewn to the owner’s shirt or suspended from the body."


The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Islam: A Comprehensive Guide to the History, Philosophy and Practice of Islam

The Encyclopedia of Islam by Juan E. Campo

The New Encyclopedia of Islam: Fifth Edition

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010. (Art = Discovering Infinite Connections in Art History from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983.

Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural, ed. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016.

How to cite blog:

Russo, Teresa, "The New Aga Khan Museum in Toronto: Explore the Medieval Collection." Teaching the Middle Ages, Jan 9, 2017; revised 2022,

The New Encyclopedia of Islam

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