Exhibit Opening: “Land of Lapis lazuli and Gold:  Afghanistan in the Collections at Duke University Library”

The opening reception for “Land of Lapis lazuli and Gold:  Afghanistan in the Collections at Duke University Library” is scheduled to take place in front of the International & Area Studies exhibit case, on the second floor of Bostock Library, on Duke’s West Campus, on Thursday, 3 February 2022, at 2-4pm.

This public exhibit is an attempt to offer a different perspective on Afghanistan’s history through the holdings from Duke University Libraries. While the sobriquet the “graveyard of empires” has recently gained primacy in discussions about Afghanistan, the reality is vastly different.  Over its long history, this mountainous south-central Asian country has actually been the cradle of a number of great empires, such as the Ghaznavid (Afghanistan), Timurid (Iran), and Mughal (India).

The country literally sits atop one of the world’s largest reserves of various metals and minerals, including gold and lapis lazuli.  Many of Afghanistan’s most important cities were once significant spaces for commerce as well as intellectual exchange, particularly along the fabled Silk Roads.

Culturally, Afghanistan has been the home for some notable persons such as Rumi, the 13th-century Persian Sufi mystic, who is still one of the most widely read poets in the world.  Moreover, while Afghanistan has become a predominantly Muslim country, there has always been a plurality of religious thought, from Buddhism to Christianity to Judaism as well as Zoroastrianism.

“Land of Lapis lazuli and Gold:  Afghanistan in the Collections at Duke University Library” is curated by the interim librarians for South and Southeast Asia from the library’s International & Area Studies Department and dedicated to the South Asian studies specialists who have helped to build Duke’s collection on Afghanistan.

This public exhibit will run from December 1, 2021 – December 31, 2022.


6 thoughts on “Exhibit Opening: “Land of Lapis lazuli and Gold:  Afghanistan in the Collections at Duke University Library””

  1. I am wondering if there will be a video of the materials so that others can enjoy the exhibit?

    1. Thanks for your expression of interest, Marjorie! The curators of this exhibit plan to write up a couple of illustrated blog posts focusing on individual items as a way of sharing what’s on display. And maybe entice those who can come inside the library to pay the exhibit a visit.

  2. Wish I lived closer by and could go to this event.

    Amy Morrison Perry
    BA, Trinity, 1965, MA, Romance Languages, 1967

    1. Thank you so much, Amy! Please see the response above about ways of learning more about the exhibit. It’s worth noting that our buildings are closed to the public until Mar. 14, so even if you did live nearby, you wouldn’t be able to attend unless you had a Duke ID.

  3. It’s so good to see this exhibit. That Duke Library has a deep collection of items on Afghanistan–thanks largely to the work of Duke librarian Avinash Maheshwary and, earlier, Duke Prof. Louis Dupree and his wife Nancy–shows the importance of this land and culture, which many might not have been aware was well represented here; it also shows the importance of having Area Studies librarians.

    1. Thank you, Stephen! Your sentiment was shared by the reporter who attended the exhibit opening and who wrote a nice piece in “The Chronicle” called “More than one narrative: Duke Libraries’ ‘Land of Lapis lazuli and Gold’ exhibit works to expand awareness of Afghan culture.” The article in the undergraduate student paper also mentioned the pioneering work of Avinash Maheshwary, who worked as Duke’s South Asian studies librarian for over 40 years, and who compiled the bibliographic catalog of the Dupree collection. Although Avinash can never be replaced, we hope that one day Duke will hire another South Asian studies librarian!

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