Links to Museums with Silk Road Art

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Beijing (China)

The Palace Museum, with Japanese and English versions of its website, is in the process of developing a technically sophisticated website, which will allow close-up inspection of a wide range of objects from this outstanding collection.


Berlin (Germany)

The Berlin State Museums encompass a sprawling complex, of which note:

The Museum of Asian Art offers its own brief introduction to the museum, with a few small images from the collections. Silk Road Seattle's extensive image gallery of objects from the East Asian collection of the museum may be accessed by clicking here. For our extensive set of images from the South, Southeastern and Central Asian section of the museum (formerly known as the Museum for Indian Art), click here. This is the part of the collection containing the material collected by the German Turfan expeditions of the beginning of the 20th century.

The Museum of Islamic Art offers its own brief introduction to the museum, with a few small images from the collections. Silk Road Seattle extensive image gallery of objects from this museum may be accessed by clicking here

Click here for a brief description of the important Collection of Classical Antiquities housed in the Pergamon and Altes Museums in Berlin.


Cleveland (Ohio, USA)

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The museum contains very rich collections, including major holdings on Asian Art and perhaps the most comprehensive "Silk Road" textile collection of any art museum.  Thousands of the museum's objects are already available on line and are relatively easily searched through keywords.  Unfortunately the "large" size images are really too small to allow close examination of details; this is especially unfortunate for some of the fragments of Central Asian and Chinese silk.


Istanbul (Turkey)

The History Department at Bilkent University hosts the website for The Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, containing the very rich collections of the Ottoman Sultans. While the formatting of the site is somewhat old-fashioned, it has a great deal to reward exploration-some interesting illustrated essays, including ones on the Topkapi Palace itself, and a generous selection of large (if slowly loading) images of objects in the collections. The Topkapi is known for its outstanding collection of illuminated Qurans and for a porcelain collection that is one of the two or three best in the world. Among the richest sections of the website are the ones illustrating a broad range of manuscript miniature painting. Silk Road enthusiasts will find of particular interest the section entitled "China, Chinoiserie and Painting in Turkestan under the Timurids". The majority of images are identified by only a brief caption.


Kyoto (Japan)

The Kyoto National Museum provides good Internet access to its remarkable collections of East Asian art. 


London (England)

The British Library

The British Library is not a museum as such, but it houses one of the world's great collections of rare manuscripts and books. In addition to a continuous exhibition of some of its rarities (for example, books and manuscripts from Dunhuang), it has a roomy special exhibit hall where one can view some of the most exciting exhibitions of cultural artifacts to be seen anywhere. In 2004 there was one on the Silk Road; the one currently on display (in mid-2007) is "Sacred: Discover what we share The world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books." The Library is in a position of being able easily to draw on some of the other remarkable collections in the UK and supplements displays of the written word with related artifacts. The Internet viewer should head directly to the Online Gallery page, with links to substantial and technically innovative material. For example, one can turn pages of Sultan Baybars' Qur'an, hear the Arabic text being recited, read a translation of it, or hear a discussion of it in English. What until recently was known as the world's oldest printed book, The Diamond Sutra, can be scrolled through while one listens to or reads a very informative explanation of its contents. To use this wonderful feature of the BL site requires downloading some software, which the site will do automatically providing you OK the installation with your computer's security software. The Library's educational resources pages have a wide range of interesting material as well.

For the Silk Road, the most important aspect of the British Library collections and activity is the fact that it is home to the International Dunhuang Project. This major international project has recently celebrated a decade of remarkable achievement in cultivating the cooperation of the repositories around the world which house materials from the important Silk Road site of Dunhuang and related material concerning the East Asian part of the Silk Road. The British Library itself is a repository for one of the two largest collections of Dunhuang manuscripts and books. The goal of IDP is to put all of the material online in searchable databases with high quality images and supporting documentation. The Silk Road will be on line--manuscripts, paintings, artifacts, photographs--along with catalogues, studies, educational programs and much more. One can already view on the site a significant number of the Dunhuang manuscripts brought back to Britain by Aurel Stein, most of the Dunhuang paintings in his collection, and all of the textiles from the sizeable collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The other major collections of Dunhuang material--for example, in Paris and St. Petersburg--will be part of this, as will the material still in China. In conjunction with the Silk Road exhibit at the British Library in 2004, the IDP posted an extensive set of annotated exhibit images. There are a few other educational resources for school children and general learners; that kind of material can be expected to grow. Mirror sites for the project are available in several other languages. For an overview of IDP and its activities, visit its website and/or read the article by its Director, Dr. Susan Whitfield, in The Silk Road, Vol. 3, no. 2, which may be accessed via the Silkroad Foundation website.

The British Museum

See Silk Road Seattle's page on The British Museum.

The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art

The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art. University of London.

You will find this outstanding collection of Chinese ceramics only a few blocks from the British Museum. The web pages provide an excellent introduction, with good descriptive text and splendid enlargeable images.

The Victoria and Albert Museum

See Silk Road Seattle's page on The Victoria and Albert Museum.


Los Angeles (California, USA)

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LACMA's very large collection has particular strengths in Asian and Islamic-world art. Among the highlights are many Himalayan-region manuscripts and a rich collection of Buddhist (notably Tibetan) sculpture. It is easy to browse the featured collections.

The museum is a leader in placing material on the Internet.  Images of nearly 60,000  objects (about half its collection) are already available, some 40,000 of those with enlargeable images.  The search functions for its "Collections Online" are among the most user-friendly of any museum web pages, allowing keyword, subject, geographical region and other groupings.

Special exhibitions at LACMA tend now to have substantial sets of web pages which live on after the exhibit in physical space has closed.  Among the noteworthy recent ones are:

Perhaps the best, short, introductions to Islamic Art on the Internet is "Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art."


New Delhi (India)

The National Museum , which contains an outstanding collection of early Buddhist sculpture and significant portions of the materials Sir Aurel Stein brought back from Chinese Central Asia, has begun to display on the Internet selected images of works from its collection. The images are really too small though, and not accompanied by explanatory text. For Silk Road Seattle's photographs of objects in the museum, notably those from the Stein Collection, click here


Moscow (Russia)

See Silk Road Seattle's page on the State Historical Museum, which is of particular interest here for its collections of early nomadic artifacts.


New York City (USA)

The American Numismatic Society

The American Numismatic Society in New York is one of the most important repositories of collections of money from around the world. It has begun posting web pages for exhibitions it mounts. Note the current one "Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars: The History of Money." The lasting value of the ANS for the student of the Silk Road is the fact its collections are on line in a searchable database. The search mechanism and the underlying database are in the process of being expanded and refined, but already one may access the catalogue for the excellent ANS reference library and view generally good images and careful technical descriptions of coinage that was used along the Silk Road. The ongoing reference work Numismatic Literature is currently being converted for online access.

The Asia Society Museum

The Asia Society Museum has an excellent collection of its own for East and South Asia and often mounts special exhibitions. The website is superbly designed. Viewers may view short videos providing an introduction to several subjects through a close examination of a few key examples. It is possible to view objects by region, where there is an introductory text overview and for each object a generous descriptive/analytical paragraph. Nice maps of the culture area for the period and location of each object are linked to the individual descriptive pages. There is a general search function for the collection as a whole. A timeline (similar to the Metropolitan Museum's timeline) is in process and will soon provide an additional means of accessing the collection.

There are a number of special exhibitions available on line. The best access to descriptions and links to online exhibitions sponsored by the Asia Society is here. Among the exhibitis, note especially "Buddhist Art and the Trade Routes" and the spectacular "Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China's Liao Empire (907-1125)," where one can view the interiors of painted Liao tombs and find an extensive selection of high-quality images of objects drawn from important collections around the world.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is overwhelming in the comprehensiveness of its collections and the size, depth and elegance of its website. While other museums may in fact be as or more important for the arts of the Silk Road (generally they have strengths in narrower areas), the Met is in a sense one-stop shopping and certainly is far ahead of the pack in its Internet presence. Noteworthy features include the following:

The Met's "Timeline of Art History" , the single best way to access world art on the Internet, with a variety of approaches to combine materials, view thematic essays, locate supplementary information, and view elegantly presented images of items from the Met's vast collection.

Featured items (generally fifty have been chosen in each section) for the departments of Ancient Near Eastern Art, Islamic Art and Asian Art. From the thumbnails one brings up a descriptive caption and an image that is enlargeable to the extent of zooming in on small details.

Special exhibits, where in most of the ones for recent years a good selection of objects from the exhibit may be viewed on the website. Note especially the following:

A wide range of educational resources aimed at teachers and younger students of art. Check the section "Explore and Learn" where, under "Themes and Cultures" there are several "self-teaching" units aimed at a young audience but in fact informative for those of any age. Among them, note:

"My Met Museum", where, upon registering, one can then keep one's personal album of selected items from the Met's online collections.


Oxford (England)

The Ashmolean: Museum of Art and Archaeology. University of Oxford. has very rich collections for East Asia and the Islamic world.

The Pitt Rivers Museum: Anthropology and World Archaeology. University of Oxford.
This is one of major ethnographic museums in world; but online presence is still developing. Note though its "Tibet Visual History Online," containing several hundred historic photos which may be accessed in thematically organized albums.


Paris (France)

Musée Guimet

See Silk Road Seattle's page on the Musée Guimet

Musée du Louvre

See Silk Road Seattle's page on the Musée du Louvre

Musée National du Moyen ¬ge/The National Museum of the Middle Ages

See Silk Road Seattle's page on the Musée National du Moyen ¬ge


San Francisco (California, USA)

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. The museum contains one of the best collections of Asian Art to be found anywhere in the world, which now may be viewed in its new quarters. Web-site development has lagged; so far only select images are pasted into general descriptions of highlights of the collections.


Seattle (Washington, USA)

Seattle Art Museum has an outstanding collection of Asian art, much of which is displayed in its own building (The Seattle Asian Art Museum). Seattle Art Museum was a significant contributor to the virtual "Art of the Silk Road" exhibition found elsewhere on the Silk Road Seattle website. Highlights of the museum's website include:

St. Petersburg (Russia)

The State Hermitage Museum.   For Silk Road Seattle's gallery of images from the Hermitage, click here.


Taipei (Taiwan, Republic of China)

The National Palace Museum contains one of the most important collections of Chinese art in the world. Its website in 7 languages, including English, has a modest sampling of objects accessible under "Exhibitions>Collection" and "Exhibitions>Collection Highlights."


Tokyo (Japan)

The website of the Tokyo National Museum is in several languages including English. The collection of East Asian art is outstanding. One can access easily high-quality images and brief descriptive text for a dozen or so objects each by type (e.g., sculpture) or by region (e.g., Chinese Central Asia). The Current Display features more than a nundred of the Museum's treasures. The starting point for searches is the TNM Collection page. New exhibits, e.g., "Treasures of Ancient China," have a descriptive outline and a selection of small images of key objects.


Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)

See the Silk Road Seattle collections of the following museums:


Uppsala (Sweden)

See the Silk Road Seattle collections for the Uppsala Cathedral Museum.


Washington, D. C. (USA)

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together constitute the U.S. national museum of Asian art, as part of the Smithsonian Institution.  Clicking on Collections brings up links to all the major subject areas, under each of which are dozens of enlargeable, superb photographs with brief captions and occasionally further descriptive text. The objects are accessed from arrays of either 12 or 30 thumbnailed images, each of which connects to a brief caption visible when you "mouse-over" the array. The photography of objects here is about the best of any I have seen for museums. There are a good many special Exhibitions, where a separate listing links to those for which there is extensive, dedicated material on line. Noteworthy ones include:

Last revised June 2007.