Labelling Islam: Structuring Ideas in Islamic Galleries in Europe

  • Klas Grinell
Part of the Heritage Studies in the Muslim World book series (HSMW)


This chapter analyses contemporary European exhibition of Islamic art using framing theory paired with the perspective of Beverly Serrell’s Exhibit Label (1996). The thesis is that exhibitions lacking one ‘big idea’ often become vague, cluttered and confusing. Most exhibitions of Islamic artefacts in Europe are arranged chronologically and geographically, often further subdivided according to dynasties, material, technique, location and time. Different logics of categorisation are intertwined in a way that makes exhibition narratives very complex. The big framing idea—if there is one—gets lost in the detail. Dynastic labelling, in particular, is more of a scaffold than an actual historical narrative for all those who are not already closely acquainted with Islamic political history. According to the perspective presented herein, categories that specify the date and place of objects must be selected in relation to the big idea they are intended to convey. Via close readings, this chapter explores if there are ‘big ideas’ behind the curating of Islamic art collections in Europe.


Islam Islamic art Museums Exhibit labels Framing Dynasties 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klas Grinell
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for European StudiesGothenburg University (CERGU)GothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Department for Cultural AffairsCity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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