Behind the Scenes of a Traveling Exhibition

I’m pleased to announce Shangri La’s participation in Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture exhibition, which opens Feb. 24 at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Provo, Utah.  This exhibition includes 13 objects from Shangri La’s own collection, as well as over 200 other Islamic art pieces from around the world.
Rosewater sprinkler, Iran, 18-19th century, glass, mold-blown and free-blown (47.9)
Beauty and Belief offers unique access to Islamic culture, providing “a view from within” according to Project Director Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir. It is an introduction to the arts of Islamic cultures, featuring historical periods and geographic regions spotlighted by select calligraphy, figurative imagery and pattern. The exhibition creates a space in which to encounter the visual language of Islam, enabling visitors to engage in cross-cultural dialogue and gain a deeper understanding of past and present cultures.
Preparing for such a significant exhibition has been exciting and challenging for Shangri La Collections staff. One of the more labor-intensive parts of any traveling exhibition is preparing the objects and art for transport.
If you get nervous handing your suitcase over to the luggage handler at the airport because you’re not too sure what you’ll get back on the other side, then you’ve begun to understand the deep anxiety that accompanies art shipping. So how exactly do we get something as fragile as the glass Rosewater Sprinker (pictured above) from Honolulu to various museums on the mainland and back again, all without a scratch?! Very carefully …
Hanging textile, North Africa, c.1800, cotton (83.19)
Collections staff carefully move all the objects to a staging area for crate packing. Staff take precautions to spare the objects as much stress as possible. As you can see in the image below, the hanging textile has been mounted to a frame (much like the way you would frame a picture) for added structural support. The textile is then wrapped in Tyvek to further protect it in the crate as it travels.
Handlers support each side of a large North African hanging textile as it is moved to the staging area for packing.
Once the objects are assembled and prepared for packing, each object is placed in its custom-made crate, designed to support and protect it. Each object will travel within its designated crate for the remainder of the traveling exhibition.
Placing the hanging textile in its custom-made crate.
Folio from a Qur'an, Near East or North Africa, c. 900, ink and pigment on parchment (11.25)
In the above image you can see a custom-made crate that has been doubly insulated and cushioned to provide the folio inside as much protection as possible from temperature and humidity fluxuations, as well as any vibration due to the rigors of travel.
Traveling exhibition staging area wtih crates.
Given Shangri La’s unique location, even getting the Crown Movers truck down the driveway is a challenge.
The Crown Movers truck backing down the driveway.
Once the truck is in place the crates can be loaded onto the truck. From here the crates will be taken directly to the Honolulu airport, where they will be loaded onto a plane bound for Los Angeles. From Los Angeles, the crates will be transported to Provo, Utah, by private transit.
Crown Movers crew moving the now crated hanging textile.
Loading the last crate on the Crown Movers truck!
Next stop Honolulu airport!
For more information on the Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture exhibition, visit Look for additional blog posts from our collections manager, Maja Clark, as she hits the road next month to assist with the exhibition installation in Provo!

Shangri La’s Curator of Islamic Art

Keelan Overton, Curator of Islamic Art at Shangri La

Following an international search, The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art welcomed Keelan Overton into the position of curator of Islamic art at Shangri La on June 27. I am so pleased to have Keelan join our staff. She is a very thoughtful and well-regarded young scholar who is passionate about the educational role museums play in today’s society—especially at a time when we all need to have a better understanding of the Muslim world.

Keelan will be responsible for the research, interpretation, and display of Shangri La’s collection, which includes more than 3,500 pieces of Islamic art. She will also develop programs to enhance Shangri La’s role as a center for education, scholarly research, and exchange. We’re looking forward to helping her plan exhibitions, residencies for scholars and artists, educational outreach programs, and occasional symposia and publications.

Even though Keelan has only been here for a little over two months, she has adjusted quickly and really hit the ground running! She says she’s “very pleased to be back at Shangri La and grateful to once again be surrounded by the Aloha spirit. This is a very exciting moment for the institution, and I am currently focusing my efforts on exhibitions planning, guide training, and increasing Shangri La’s exposure within the international community of Islamic art history.”

Keelan holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles (2011) and a master’s degree in Art History from Williams College in Massachusetts (2004). She is also no stranger to Shangri La. She first came here as an intern in 2003 and returned as assistant curator from 2004 to 2005. Keelan has since worked as a research assistant in the Art of the Middle East Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and as an instructor and teaching assistant at UCLA. She is the recipient of a University of California President’s Fellowship and a Theodore Rousseau Fellowship from the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which supported extensive travel and research in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and India.

Welcome, Keelan. We’re thrilled to have you here!