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September 20th 2023 at 18.00 for 19.00: Lecture by Dorothy Armstrong at the University Women's Club

Above left: Carpet fragment, wool, ‘vase’ weaving technique, 143cm x 141cm, attributed by May Beattie to Kirman, Iran, 17th century (Musée des Tissus, Lyons). Image: May Beattie, Beattie Archive, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Used as cover image for Beattie’s exhibition catalogue for Carpets of Central Persia, 1976.

A Modest Radical: May Beattie, the Carpets of Central Persia exhibition, and the World of Islam Festival, 1976

In 1976, the World of Islam Festival was held in the UK. It was an unprecedented and as yet unrepeated initiative to raise the profile of Islamic culture across Britain, at a time of tension between Muslim communities and the West. The Festival included a TV series, multiple publications, concerts and performances, and exhibitions across the UK. This lecture discusses an important group of artifacts for the Festival, Islam’s carpets. In particular it will examine the different narratives of carpets in the Festival’s flagship Arts of Islam exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and in the specialist exhibition Carpets of Central Persia, curated by carpet scholar May Beattie. The talk draws on the May Beattie Archive at the Ashmolean and the Arts Council Archives housed at the V&A.

Dr Dorothy Armstrong is a historian of material culture with a special interest in South, Central and West Asia. Her recent work has focused on the use of carpets in the construction of imperial narratives in the 19th and 20th centuries. She has been tutor and lecturer on the joint V&A and Royal College of Art History of Design MA, and on the Edinburgh College of Art MFA. From 2021 she was the May Beattie Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. She has published and lectured widely on carpets. Her new book Threads of Empire: A History of the World in Twelve Carpets will be published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in late 2024. s.


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