Toronto, Canada, 8 October 2002 - The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) today announced its intention to establish in Toronto a museum housing exceptional collections of Islamic art and heritage as well as a unique academic and cultural center focused on the study and practice of human pluralism.
The museum, which will be the first of its kind in the English speaking world, is expected to include artefacts from renowned private collections including those of His Highness the Aga Khan and of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. Prince Sadruddin and Princess Catherine Aga Khan have also expressed a desire for their collection to be part of the museum. The museum will be dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, display and interpretation of artefacts relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious traditions of Muslim communities, past and present. Artefacts will include ceramics, metalwork and paintings covering all periods of Islamic history. Manuscripts in the collection will include the earliest one extant of Avicenna’s Qanun fi’l Tibb (The Canon of Medicine) dated 1052.
The institute for the study of human pluralism represents a landmark collaboration by the Network with the Government of Canada in an effort to foster pluralist societies worldwide, accelerating and widening the benefits of development, while promoting good governance and human security. It will incorporate academic and professional development as well as research programs in collaboration with institutions in North America and abroad. Discussions are underway with Canadian governmental institutions and universities on programmes of study, research and professional development that will seek to have global impact by enabling people in the developing world to access resources, learning and experience on pluralism generated in various spheres of life in Canada.
“In situating these two institutions in Canada,” the Aga Khan said, “we acknowledge both a tradition of tolerance and inclusiveness as well as an environment that has permitted diversity to flourish, enriching civic life of each individual and community that has sought to make this country its home. It is to this commitment to pluralism that we will turn in seeking to make these institutions both a repository of heritage and a source of inspiration for societies the world over in the future.”
In recent years, the Aga Khan has been working to establish on a pivotal site in the Western world, an educational and cultural complex of international pre-eminence that can contribute solutions towards problems of human development but also advance public understanding. The purpose of such a center is to bring onto a single site a concentration of resources in humanities and human development (incorporating education and medicine), strengthening and expanding the capacities of the AKDN through partnerships with public and private institutions. The initiative on pluralism results from discussions that the Aga Khan has held with leaders from all walks of Canadian life over the past many years, including most recently with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, senior government ministers and Canadian parliamentarians. It is also the outcome of two decades of collaboration between Canadian institutions and the AKDN.
The AKDN has long-standing medical and academic collaborations with the Universities of Toronto, McMaster and McGill, as well as with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Strengthening these relationships is the presence of the Network at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the past twenty-five years. These relationships have enabled AKDN to pioneer initiatives in the training of nurses and doctors, medical research, education in architecture, planning and urbanism as well as in Islamic studies.
The museum and the center will be situated within17.3 acres of land acquired by the Network on Wynford Drive in Toronto. The complex will also house educational and administrative facilities, offices of various AKDN agencies, an auditorium and conference facilities, and will adjoin the site for the largest proposed Ismaili Centre in the English-speaking world.
“Over the past twenty five years,” said the Aga Khan, “ I have been seeking to develop physical spaces in major cities in the Western world that can contribute towards an improved understanding of the many cultures and civilisations of the Islamic world. The high-profile Ismaili Centres in London, Vancouver and Lisbon, each designed by an architect of international repute, each reflecting an interplay of civilizational influences from across the East and the West, and each looking to contribute to civic life in their respective countries, have been a first step towards this objective.”
The Ismaili Center, Toronto is being designed by signature Indian architect, Charles Correa, holder of the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Gold Medal of the International Union of Architects and a winner of the Praemium Imperiale and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, amongst many other prizes. Design proposals for the museum and center are expected to be sought over the course of the coming year.
The center will enable the AKDN to build on its collaboration between Canadian institutions and the AKDN extending across many fields and several countries. The Aga Khan Foundation Canada has, for 20 years, been an important partner of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in a series of development programmes ranging from rural development in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan to early childhood education in East Africa. A number of private and institutional investors have collaborated in venture capital initiatives in Canada undertaken by Industrial Promotion Services (Canada), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an affiliate of the AKDN, which has an active unit in Canada, has over the past four years, provided assistance in Afghanistan, East Timor, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Zanzibar. FOCUS has also, in close collaboration with the Government of Canada, undertaken successful resettlement programmes in Canada for refugees from Kosovo and Afghanistan.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture oversees the AKDN’s cultural activities. Its restoration and urban revitalisation projects range from settings as varied as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Spain, Syria and Zanzibar. The Trust administers the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the world’s largest architectural prize. In collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, the Trust’s Education and Culture Programme has developed ArchNet, an Internet-based network that will provide students and professionals around the world with a globally accessible resource on architecture, urban design and related issues such as restoration, conservation and housing design and construction. In Central Asia, the Trust is also involved in the preservation and revival of traditional music and the design of humanities curricula for universities and schools.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions that seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities. Established by the Ismaili Imamat (office of spiritual leadership) and working in over 20 countries, the Network’s underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion.
For further information, please contact:
Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Telephone: +1.617.237.2532 (ext 107)
The Information Department