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A Field Pioneered by Amateurs: The Collecting and Display of Islamic Art in Early Twentieth-Century Boston

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This article examines the formation and display of collections of Islamic art in Boston-area museums over the first half of the twentieth century. It focuses on the holdings of three main institutions: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Fogg Art Museum, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It explores some of the key personalities involved in the formation of collections, such as Denman Waldo Ross, Hervey Wetzel, Joseph McMullan, and Stuart Cary Welch. It also looks at early curators of the collections, in this era a largely amateur pursuit. Through these considerations it traces changing approaches to the study of Islamic art and discusses the various local and international forces (including the Aesthetic Movement, emerging nationalist discourses and ethno-racialist interpretations of art, and the growing American hegemony in the Middle East) that shaped the social and political context in which Islamic art was received and interpreted in this period.


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