Shared Sacred Sites at the NYPL

For more than 100 years, The New York Public Library has collected thousands of religious books and manuscripts in order to preserve and make accessible the rich history of world religions, including the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Drawn from divisions across the Library’s research collections, the objects on display represent centuries of creativity that tell the story of these religions and the varied interactions among followers of different belief systems.

“Jerusalem” at the NYPL

Several major figures central to the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an have inspired interfaith encounters. While chronicles of the three monotheistic faiths are full of examples of intolerance and conflict, they also tell of coexistence and mutual understanding. Such acts are modeled on the hospitality of Abraham, the motherhood of Mary, and the heroic deeds of other holy figures, including Moses, Elijah, St. George, and Khidr.

Shared Sacred Sites highlights the importance of these figures—and the shared worship they have inspired—by tracing them through texts drawn from the rich collections of the Library.

I helped Alise Loebelsohn of Pompeii Studio with painting the display tables for this exhibition.

Tables in progress at Pompeii Studio

ONE EXHIBITION, THREE LOCATIONS 

Different versions of the Shared Sacred Sites exhibition have been presented at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (Mucem) in Marseille (2015), at the Bardo Museum in Tunis (2016), and in Thessaloniki (2017), Paris (2017), and Marrakesh (2018). This year, the exhibition is being hosted at three of New York City’s renowned cultural institutions. In addition to the The New York Public Library, CUNY’s James Gallery is displaying items depicting contemporary instances of believers practicing their faiths in shared spaces. Plus, at the Morgan Library & Museum, a single but significant work is on view—the 13th-century Morgan Picture Bible—which demonstrates how members of the different faiths interacted through shared biblical stories.

Shared Sacred Sites is a collaborative project that seeks to bring together scholars and curious individuals to promote and inform the study of shared sacred spaces and symbolism. Learn more: sharedsacredsites.net

Detail of the painting in progress by Pompeii Studio.

 

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