WASHINGTON (June 25, 2012)—Travel back to the Golden Age of Muslim civilization — from the seventh to the 17th centuries — with a new exhibition opening at the National Geographic Museum this summer. “1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization” is an award-winning traveling exhibition that highlights the enormous contribution to science and technology made by men and women of many different faiths during the era of Muslim civilization. The exhibition opens Aug. 3, 2012, and runs through Feb. 3, 2013.
“Muslim civilization stretched from southern Spain as far as China,” explains Professor Salim Al-Hassani, one of the academics behind the exhibition and editor of the exhibition’s companion book. “For a thousand years, scholars of many faiths built on the ancient knowledge of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, making breakthroughs that helped pave the way for the Renaissance. The discoveries made by men and women in Muslim civilization — from automatic machines and medical marvels to astronomical observations and inspiring architecture — have left their mark on the way we live today.”
1001 Inventions is a global educational initiative that promotes awareness of scientific and cultural achievements from the Golden Age of Muslim civilization and how those contributions helped build the foundations of our modern world. The “1001 Inventions” exhibition was named the Best Touring Exhibition of the Year at the Museums and Heritage Excellence Awards (U.K.). This highly interactive exhibition showcases the historic advancements in navigation, medicine, hydraulics, optics, mathematics and more.
“1001 Inventions” has drawn millions of visitors in London, Istanbul, New York and Abu Dhabi. A half-million people saw the exhibition at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where it closed in mid March 2012
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a model of celebrated Ottoman engineer Al-Jazari’s sophisticated Elephant Clock, created more than 800 years ago. The clock was a masterpiece celebrating the diversity of humankind. Its moving parts were automated using a water-powered timer inspired by an Indian mechanism known as ghatika. Combined with this were an Egyptian phoenix, Greek hydraulic technology, Chinese dragons, an Indian elephant and mechanical figurines in Arabian dress. The clock cleverly reflected cultural and technological influences from across Muslim civilization, from Spain to China. Every half hour the timer would set off a series of sounds and movements. A ball rolled from the top of the clock, turning an hour dial, while the scribe and his pen turned automatically to show the minutes past the hour.
The work of influential scientists, such as physicist Ibn al-Haytham, is highlighted in the exhibition. Al-Haytham’s ideas about optics overturned the ancient theory that our eyes send out invisible rays in order to see. He proved his theory of light rays being reflected from visible objects to build the first camera obscura. The exhibition includes camera obscura examples and other advancements in optics, showing how early people came to understand the complex concepts behind vision.
The exhibition also features models and illustrations of energy-efficient courtyard houses modeled on those developed more than 4,500 years ago. They incorporated natural cooling elements in their design, such as double-glazed windows, thick external walls and air-scoops for natural cross ventilation. Current energy-efficient houses use these same environmentally friendly, energy-efficient techniques today.
“1001 Inventions” also includes many everyday objects that many do not know were invented by men and women of the Golden Age of Muslim civilization. Items such as perfume, fabrics, the game of chess and more are featured to show visitors the importance of past inventions in our daily lives today.
“The mission of National Geographic is to spread knowledge of the world and its cultures — past and present,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of exhibitions at the National Geographic Society. “This exhibition is an opportunity to share the fascinating history of Muslim civilization with our audiences and to celebrate great scientific achievement and innovation.”
In conjunction with the museum exhibition, the National Geographic Museum will host the 1001 Inventions Family Festival on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This outdoor festival will include performances, music and dance workshops, hands-on art activities, tastings, demonstrations and a craft bazaar. In addition, admission to the museum will be free all day. The festival is supported by a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
National Geographic Books recently published the companion book to the exhibition, “1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization” (National Geographic; ISBN 978-1-4262-0934; $28), that delves into some of the most important inventions from the period.
The “1001 Inventions” exhibition is supported by the UK-based Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation, an international network of academic experts, as its Global Knowledge Partner. Additional support comes from the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, philanthropic arm of the ALJ Group of companies, which serves as the Global Strategic Partner of 1001 Inventions. The exhibition is locally sponsored by Geico and Busboys & Poets, which will be hosting events in conjunction with the exhibition through its run in D.C.
National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed Dec. 25. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for National Geographic members, military, students, seniors and groups of 25 or more; $4 for children ages 5-12; and free (reservation required) for school, student and youth groups (age 18 and under). Tickets may be purchased online at www.ngmuseum.org; via telephone at (202) 857-7700; or in person at the National Geographic ticket office, 1600 M Street, N.W., between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. For more information on group sales, call (202) 857-7281 or email email@example.com.
Photography exhibitions in the museum’s M Street gallery and outdoors are free. For information on the “1001 Inventions” exhibition as well as the Titanic: 100 Year Obsession” exhibition, open through Sept. 9, the public should call (202) 857-7588 or visit www.ngmuseum.org.
About the 1001 Inventions Initiative
1001 Inventions is a global educational initiative that promotes awareness of 1,000 years of scientific and cultural achievements from Muslim civilization from the 7th century onwards, and how those contributions helped build the foundations of our modern world. The content of the “1001 Inventions” exhibition was reviewed and approved by an independent panel of academics from the London Science Museum and was also reviewed by academic experts retained by California Science Center. Further information is available from the official website www.1001inventions.com.