Bridging Cultures Bookshelf/Muslim Journeys
In September 2010, the National Endowment for the Humanities received a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to create a Bridging Cultures Bookshelf to address the need of the American public for credible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and with the rich cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations. The project has provided over 900 public libraries with a set of resources, vetted by scholars, that make reliable knowledge about Islam and Islamic civilizations available to a broad American audience. These resources consist of a collection of books and a website designed to expand, amplify, and contextualize the materials on the Bookshelf. In selecting and developing these new resources, NEH and ALA provide an opportunity for the public to engage actively with these materials through public programs in libraries, book groups, classrooms, or as individual lifelong learners. Through this project, NEH seeks to promote individual learning, community discussions, and opportunities for greater cross-cultural understanding.
As a part of the public outreach component of the project “Beyond Golden Age and Decline,” the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media collaborated with NEH on the content development and online dissemination of the Bookshelf project. The “Muslim Journeys” project website was launched in 2013, and is housed at http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys.
The Bookshelf is a collection of books, films, and other resources offering some new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, practices, and cultures of Muslims around the world, including those with in the U.S. The project was intended to address both the need and the desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations. As a result of the Bookshelf project, the nation’s libraries, and in turn their patrons, have a selection of resources chosen especially for public audiences with the advice and discernment of scholars, librarians, and other humanities educators and program experts.
The main audience for the project is the general American public. The Carnegie grant provides for distribution of the Bookshelf set to each of one thousand libraries across the United States. The American Library Association is NEH’s partner in administering the program by promoting this opportunity to its member libraries, conducting an online application process for the books, and by purchasing and distributing the books to the one thousand libraries selected. The link to the ALA application process is American Library Association Public Programming, Muslim Journeys: an NEH Bridging Cultures Bookshelf Eligible libraries will include public libraries, special libraries that circulate books to the public, and community college and academic libraries.
The Bookshelf is not intended to offer readers a comprehensive study of Islam as a religion or of the Muslim world in all its complexity. Based on consultation with scholars and our own research and discussion, NEH has identified learning objectives for the project: The Bookshelf as a whole is intended to foster understanding of Islam as a religion practiced in the Middle East as well as other regions of the world; of the variety of beliefs and practices within Islam; of the role of Islamic civilizations in the travel, trade, migration, and cultural exchange that characterize world history; of technological, scientific, and humanistic achievements that have their roots in both Islamic and “Western” cultures; of the place of Muslims in U.S. history since the colonial period. The project is also intended to cultivate an appreciation of the arts, architecture, or literature of one or more majority Muslim regions; the similarities and differences in the traditions and practices of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Islam through the eyes of practicing Muslims; and connections with Islamic cultures that readers find within their own experience.
The Carnegie grant also provided for the creation of a website to enhance the value of the Bookshelf as a resource for public audiences. Visitors to the website find readers guides to each of the books, framing essays that help to provide thematic structure and context for their reading, interviews with scholars and authors, podcasts and other associated media, links to relevant websites, recommendations for further reading, and additional sources in print, image, sound, and video formats. George Mason University’s Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media collaborated with GMU’s Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies to develop the site, using a grant provided by NEH with its Carnegie funds. The American Library Association offers customized tools for library programming on its website Programming Librarian. This website portal provides a link to the Bookshelf website and other related resources.Download the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf/Muslim Journeys Announcement Postcard sent to U.S. libraries by the ALA here.