The Institute of Ismaili Studies Ismaili Special Collections Unit (ISCU) is taking part in History Day 2023 on 23rd November. Its participation highlights ISCU’s continuing initiatives to educate various audiences about the range of heritage material held at IIS along with facilitating access to these collections.

History Day, as well as the History Collections website, is a collaborative initiative of the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library and members of the History Research Libraries Committee.

A manuscript of Nahj al-balāgha copied by Muḥammad Taqī b. Muḥammad Ḥasan in Iran (1874 AD)

A manuscript of Nahj al-balāgha copied by Muḥammad Taqī b. Muḥammad Ḥasan in Iran (1874 AD), housed at the IIS Special Collections Unit. Image credit: Rehana Virani

The one-day event brings students, researchers, and history enthusiasts together with information professionals from history organisations, archives, museums and libraries in order to share collections and resources that showcase the diversity of cultural heritage collections from across the UK and beyond.

Contributions from a video series launched earlier this year have been featured online as part of the History Day celebration. These include an introductory video and short videos highlighting Ismailis in history and myth as well as Ismaili-Sufi interactions recorded in manuscripts found in Badakhshan. The video series was launched earlier this year by ISCU in partnership with the Department of Communications and Development (DCD). During the launch event, Professor Zayn Kassam, IIS’ Director, highlighted the importance of the series to note that:

“A community that does not preserve its heritage is gradually lost in the mists of time. Without evidence that tells us how our forebears lived, what events shaped their lives, what issues animated their writings, what their deepest aspirations were, all our claims about who we are and the contributions we have made to Muslim life and Islamic thought are like houses built on sand.”

Professor Kassam also noted that “One way the collection is brought to light is when scholars turn to manuscripts for their own research to shed light on the past. This series of videos shows the value of the collections held by the Institute and opens them up to a wide audience.”

Dr Wafi Momin, Head of ISCU further observed that:

“In this video series we want to bring treasures, manuscripts, and other materials to life and to show what scholars have been working on. We aim to cover the breadth of our collections and show what they have to offer beyond just reading them. In this way we can show visually what the treasures are and why they are important to us.”

Featuring our work in History Collections, alongside contributions from King’s College London Archives and Special Collections, SOAS Library, Institute of Historical Research, and Imperial War Museums, will educate various audiences about the Ismaili heritage collections held at IIS, and encourage their use for research, understanding and study.