All posts by Christof Galli

The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

Tile, Safavid period, IranARTstor, one of Duke University Libraries’ image databases, recently announced the addition of about 400 pictures from the collection of Islamic and South Asian art from the Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The images feature some of the exquisite objects in the collection: Indian jewelry and enamels; Syrian, Indian, Spanish, and Persian furniture, doors, and ceilings; Persian and Turkish tile panels and portable ceramics; and Central Asian, Persian, Turkish, and Indian textiles.

Shangri La, A Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures, the online exhibit of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, is fully searchable by keyword, medium region, and period. Containing about 3500 objects, the artifacts cover a time period from 1500BCE to the 20th century.

I heard about Doris Duke’s interest in Middle Eastern and Islamic art for the first time when Mary Samouelian, Doris Duke Collection Archivist at Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library (RBMSCL), asked me to help her identify locations on photographs Ms. Duke took during her trip to the Middle East in 1938. These pictures, linked to an interactive map, are part of an online exhibit of materials from the Doris Duke Archives. The records from Doris Duke’s Shangri La residence are housed in RBMSCL.


If Santa doesn’t bring you the coffee table book of sumptuously illustrated Middle Eastern manuscripts that you were hoping for, you can now console yourself by browsing through some illuminated treasures of Islamic civilization in a post at  Archivalia. There you can see, among other images, a mighty lion attacking its prey from the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s Kalila wa Dimna, a Qur’an from Persia in The Royal Library at Copenhagen, a Persian miniature from a Diwan by Hafiz at the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, a 19th century Christian Arabic manuscript at the University of Brimingham, or one of the earliest Mughal manuscripts at the Indiana University Art Museum. And now that all these pictures have made you curious, you can read up about their history in Arabic painting: Text and Image in Illustrated Arabic Manuscripts, available in Duke’s collection at Lilly Library. I hope you enjoy your holidays…

New & Free: Three Recent Islamic Studies Sites

Three recently created and published online collections of images, manuscripts, and theses in the field of Islamic Studies are indicative of a growing number of rich and diverse free online resources in this field.

  • Images: The Casselman Archive of Islamic and Mudejar Architecture in Spain provides access to over four thousand color slides and black and white photographs of medieval Spain taken by the late Eugene Casselman (1912-1996) during his thirty years of travel throughout the Iberian peninsula. The images span over one thousand years of architectural history, from the seventh to the seventeenth century.
  • Manuscripts: The Manumed project database consists of a body of 255,635 digital files and 13,373 descrip tive summaries of manuscripts, prints, videos, radio broadcasts, etc. Besides a wide variety of French resources, it houses significant numbers of Arabic materials, among them manuscripts form the Library of Alexandria, Arabic medical manuscripts, Arabic and Berber manuscripts owned by a French repository, and the manuscripts of Lmuhub Ulahbib.
  • Theses: Researchers and librarians working in Islamic Studies now have online access to nearly 1000 Ph.D theses in the subject, spanning over ten years. JISC, The Academy and The British Library have combined their resources to bring together Islamic Studies theses from universities across the UK and Ireland.

The World Bank Frees Data

On April 20, 2010, the World Bank announced that it would offer free access to its global development and financial indicators. This puts the widely used and well-liked World Development Indicators (WDI), the Global Development Finance (GDF), the African Development Indicators, and the Global Economic Monitor (GEM) at the fingertips of anybody who wants to use them for analysis, policy development, decision-making, etc. ( The data have become freely available to anybody who wants to re-distribute them, use them in mash-ups or apps. The World Bank has created a how-to guide and by mid-2010 will make the Web API available to developers. The data catalog offers an extensive listing of all databases and pre-formatted tables. The terms of use of the data are very liberal and impose very few restrictions.

Economic Effects of Migration

One of the most pressing issues in global policy development is migration. The 2005 report by The Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) to the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan outlines the dimensions and dynamics of international migration. The report has focused the attention of a number of inter-governmental organizations (IGO) and agencies on a variety of aspects created by migration. While the 127 member-country International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading body to take on an advocacy role for the implementation of “safe and orderly migration” through research and policy development, agencies such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been monitoring monetary streams, called remittances, which are created by migrants who send part of their earnings back to their country of origin. These transfers have reached, according to a WB estimate, $397 billion in 2008, $305 billion of which were sent to developing countries by 190 million migrants or 3% of the world population. A recent IMF publication (Occasional Paper 259) traces the Macroeconomic Consequences of Remittances. The World Bank’s ‘Migration and Development Brief 10’ provides an Outlook for Remittance Flows 2009-2011: Remittances Expected to Fall by 7-10 Percent in 2009. The brief is accompanied by country-by-country data in Excel format. Figures on monthly remittance flows for selected countries are also available. These data update the Migration & Remittances Factbook 2008 (check availability @ Duke), a “snapshot of migration and remittances data for all countries, regions and income groups of the world, compiled from various sources.” The Migration & Remittances page on the World Bank site offers access to more papers and publications related to this topic. In addition, the World Bank blog People Move provides timely updates on emerging research findings and trends. It goes without saying that the services which send the money back to the migrants’ home countries are not free. The WB traces the cost of these transfers on its Remittance Prices Worldwide site.

It is to be hoped that the sheer magnitude of these transactions and their economic impact will help to focus attention on the humanitarian and ethical issues underlying the process of migration, issues which are often, despite the apparent beneficial financial results, less than benign.