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Press release

Sheila R. Canby Elected to Head Metropolitan Museum's Department of Islamic Art

New York, September 8, 2009)—Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today that Sheila R. Canby will become the Patti Cadby Birch Curator in Charge of the Museum's Department of Islamic Art, effective October 26, 2009. Her election took place at the September 8 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

She is currently Curator of Islamic Art and Antiquities at The British Museum, London.

At the Metropolitan Museum, she will oversee all of the curatorial and administrative activities of the department, including acquisitions, research, and exhibitions, and all matters having to do with the care and display of the collection, which includes more than 12,000 works of art dating from the seventh to the 20th century and reflects the cultural and geographic sweep of historic Islamic civilization, extending from Spain to India and beyond. In addition, she will work closely with Associate Curator Navina Haidar and the team of specialists who have initiated the renovation, expansion, and installation of the department's new suite of galleries – devoted to the arts of the Arab lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and later South Asia – that are scheduled for completion in fall 2011.

In announcing the election, Thomas Campbell commented: "I am extremely pleased to welcome such a distinguished scholar and respected museum professional to the Metropolitan at this seminal moment for the Islamic art department. Our collection is one of the finest of its kind in the world, and Sheila brings enormous experience to bear, complementing that of our excellent department staff, at this critical moment in the ongoing development of our much-anticipated new galleries in 2011 and in the future study and interpretation of these collections."

Stated Sheila Canby: "I am thrilled and honored to be joining the Met to head up its Department of Islamic Art, which contains the preeminent collection in that field in the United States, a collection more comprehensive than most such collections in the world's major museums. I am very much looking forward to working with Thomas Campbell and the talented curatorial team for the new galleries, which have the potential of reawakening public interest in and enlivening research on the arts and culture of the Islamic lands stretching from Spain to China. I welcome those new challenges as well as the opportunity to work on joint projects with colleagues from a variety of departments at the Met."

Prior to working at The British Museum, where she has been Curator of Islamic Art and Antiquities since 1991 – first in the Department of Asia, and since 2006 in the Department of the Middle East – she held curatorial and research positions at the Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fogg Art Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She was a visiting lecturer in the Art and Archaeology Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 2004-2005. She received her B.A. from Vassar College, summa cum laude, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Of the dozens of exhibitions and installations she has organized at The British Museum, the most recent was the major spring 2009 exhibition Shah `Abbas: The Remaking of Iran (February through June 2009), which was accompanied by two publications, both of which she authored: Shah `Abbas: The Remaking of Iran and Shah `Abbas and the Treasures of Imperial Iran (both British Museum Press, 2009). Other recent book publications include Islamic Art in Detail (2005), Persian Love Poetry, with Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (2005), and Safavid Art and Architecture, 1501-1722 (2002). She has also lectured widely, and has published extensively, as the author of articles and reviews, and as a contributor to catalogues and books.

She serves on the Cultural Committee of Asia House, London, and on the Council of the British Institute of Persian Studies, and is a member of the Islamic Art Circle, British Institute of Persian Studies, and Society for Iranian Studies (in the United States), and is also a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Sheila R. Canby succeeds Michael Barry, who was Patti Cadby Birch Consultative Chairman from 2005 to 2008, and Daniel Walker, who was Patti Cadby Birch Curator in Charge from 2001 to 2005, both of whom played a significant role in developing the original concept for the new galleries.

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September 8, 2009

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