Concept note for the joint exhibition on common heritage along the Silk Roads

13 May 2019

The joint exhibition on Common Heritage along the Silk Roads will be organized as a part of the 3 years EU/UNESCO project Silk Roads Heritage Corridors in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran International Dimension of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Participating countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan.

  1. National Museums of Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  4. Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies (ToRS) of University of Copenhagen
The join exhibition on Common Heritage along the Silk Roads will be organized as a part of the 3 years EU/UNESCO project Silk Roads Heritage Corridors in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran International Dimension of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The aim of the EU/UNESCO project is to (i) strengthen capacities for safeguarding tangible and intangible cultural heritage; (ii) raise awareness and promote the common cultural heritage on the Silk Roads; (iii) use the heritage as a foundation for sustainable development, including through the development of sustainable heritage-based tourism.

The preparations of the joint travelling exhibition will be conducted in two phases: (I) the project development, preparation and display at a museum in Europe at the closer of the project in September- October 2021, and (II) travelling exhibition (beyond the scope of the present EU/UNESCO project).

The join exhibition aims to raise awareness about the project, to showcase the rich heritage of the participating countries, to promote the exchanges of good practices along the Silk Roads and to promote common understanding about the Silk Roads heritage as a bridge between the East and the West.

The exhibition catalogue will be published in English and Russian and this will help further promote awareness about the rich heritage and the museum collections of the participating countries. An online version of the catalogue will be developed and promoted through UNESCOs and EU websites, e.g. Silk Roads online platform, UNESCOs global web site and the sites of the UNESCO Offices in Almaty, Kabul, Tashkent and Tehran, seeking synergies with the EU knowledge sharing platforms.

The target audience of the exhibition will be the wide public in Europe and participating countries and particular attention will be paid to targeting and attracting the youth. This will be achieved through interactive displays of the exhibition and an accompanying educational programme of the exhibit to be developed with a view to enhancing young peoples understanding about the common heritage uniting the countries on the Silk Roads and its connection with Europe, as well as promoting their intercultural competences. An online version of the exhibit and the educational programme will increase its scope beyond its physical location, and can be used as complementary educational resources by teachers in the participating countries and beyond to engage their students on themes related to the Silk Roads, common cultural heritage and inter-cultural understanding.

The joint exhibition is developed through:
  • International conference organized in Samarkand in November 2018 which helped identify the common themes/thematic routes;
  • Annual working group meetings to make collective decisions on the objects to be included and the narrative to accompany the exhibit, thus also contributing to the shared understanding of the common heritage on the Silk Roads. The meetings will be held in different participating countries and Europe, so the representatives of the national museums will be exposed to different museums, hence contributing also to their capacity building and fostering of networks, contacts and cooperation among the participating countries and Europe. The workplan for the ongoing work will be discussed and agreed at the meetings.
  • Ongoing work on the identification of objects, materials and images from collections of national museums of participating countries that could be part of the exhibition under each of the thematic path identified.
The following possible themes/thematic paths of the common heritage along the Silk Roads in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran were identified:
  • Religions (Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam; Buddhist Heritage based On Records of Xuan Zeng; The Buddhist Mural Paintings along the Silk Road; Traveling of Buddhism and Buddhist heritage along the Silk Road)
  • Historic figures/scholars (e.g. Amir Timur, Al Beiruni, Avicenna, Al Khorezmi)
  • Different historic periods and their legacies (Culture of BMAC; Scythians Legacy; The Greek Bactrian Legacy in Afghanistan and Central Asia; Cultures of Sygnak, Sauran and Otyrau Oasis; Aral Atlantis)
  • Intangible cultural heritage (handicrafts, music, traditions, e.g. Navruz, Timurid Art)
  • Tangible heritage and urban concepts (WH-listed Silk Roads Heritage Corridors)
  • First photographic images of the region
  • Manuscripts, miniatures (the Legacy of miniature painter Kamaludin Behzad, the legacy of Tammim al Mutavvai and Albanian palimpsest)
  • Water traditional water systems (houz)
  • Production technologies (of e.g. silk, paper, gunpowder)
  • Numismatic collections (e.g. Achaemenids, Alexander of Macedonia, Seleucids, Greco-Bactrian kings, Kushan, Khorezm, Sogd, Chach, Takhirids, Samanids, Karakhanids, Chingizids, Temurids, Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand khanates)
  • Gold items (from Dalverzin tepa, Uzbekistan; Amurdarya Treasure, Central Asia; Tilla-Tepe Treasure, Afghanistan)
The following preliminary themes and sub-themes of the exhibition based on above listed ones have been agreed with the representatives of the National Museums of the participating countries.

Legacy of the Silk Roads in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran:
  1. Roads of Tolerance: religions, values, historic eras and ancient civilizations;
  2. Roads of Innovation and Discoveries: silk, paper, traditional water systems, scholars (Al Beiruni, Al Khorezmi, Avicenna, Ulugbek etc), architecture (WH sites);
  3. Roads of Unity in Diversity: shared living traditions (ICH elements), synergies between the nomadic and urban lifestyles; images and languages of people of CA, modern interpretations of traditions in architecture and design). These are working titles and might be changes based on progress made by the participating museums in choosing the objects to be exhibited.

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