Central Asia in World Museums
The cultural and historical heritage of Central Asia is displayed in different museums around the world. Here we list some of the museums that provide online access to the Central Asian objects, as well as a list of museums in Central Asia.
The State Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia has a unique collection of archaeological finds from Central Asia. One of the most famous rooms hosts a display of original wall paintings from the 5th– 8th centuries AD from ancient Panjakent, Tajikistan as well as from Varakhsha near Bukhara, Uzbekistan. You can see nice panoramic views of the halls and short descriptions of the paintings on the Hermitage website. Display of the Culture and Art of Central Asia. Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Halls 38-54).
Online exhibition about the Sogdians
The Sogdians: Influencers on the Silk Roads is organized by the Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution. If you have no idea who the Sogdians are, this is the perfect place to explore the significance of these Silk Road traders of Central Asia.
Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art
The Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is a great source for lovers of Asian art in general. To our delight, it has a large collection of textiles from Uzbekistan and other artefacts from Central Asia. You can explore all the objects that are currently part of their online exhibition or go through the highlights collected in To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a unique collection of various art objects from Central Asia. From Uzbekistan, you can explore ikat and suzani textile products, as well as architectural elements and ceramics. From Turkmenistan, there are collections of famous Turkmen carpets and jewellery. From Kazakhstan, there are some Scythian plaques from the 6th-4th centuries BC.
The British Museum
The British Museum has a unique collection of gold objects dating back to the 5th-4th centuries BC and found in the territory of modern Tajikistan in the 19th century. This collection is called the “Oxus Treasure” and has about 180 gold or gilded objects which are partly displayed in the British Museum. Some objects, like this chariot, can be viewed online.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art had an exhibition called Power of Pattern, which was dedicated to Central Asian clothing made from ikat fabrics. The exhibition is over, but the website still has some nice photos and explanations of robes made in the 19th century.
The Museum of Islamic Art has a large and diverse collection at the Pergamon Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island. There, you can find artefacts related to Central Asia, especially ceramics from Uzbekistan. There is also an online collections database, where you will need to search using keywords like Samarkand, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.
The Harvard Art Museums
The Harvard Art Museums have beautiful bowls made in the 10th century during the Samanid epoch in Uzbekistan, along with nice explanations of them.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal has a unique white jade jug made for Ulugh Beg in the 15th century. It was made in Samarkand and later belonged to the treasury of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the 17th century.
The Israel Museum
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has a splendid collection of jewellery and clothing from Bukharian Jews from the 19th century.
Textile Museum of Canada
The Textile Museum of Canada has a large collection of ikat textiles, carpets and embroidery from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It also has a couple of artefacts from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum once had the exhibition Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats with about 200 robes made from ikat fabrics in the 19th century. In the online article, you can still see some examples of such robes.
At Google Arts & Culture, you can also explore the famous Uffizi Gallery located in Florence, Italy. One of the portraits in the corridors of Uffizi depicts Tamerlane. He was the 14th century Central Asian ruler who established the Timurid Empire with its capital in Samarkand. The portrait is not an accurate depiction of Tamerlane, but rather an imagining of Cristofano dell’Altissimo, the court painter of the Medici family in the 16th century. His collection of small portraits included prominent people in history and now decorate the long corridors of the famous gallery.
If you know a museum in your area with artefacts from Central Asia, especially if it has any online collections, please let us know so we can include it in our list. If you get the opportunity to visit some of the above-mentioned museums, take a look at objects related to Central Asian countries. We hope that they will inspire you to come to Central Asia one day!
Museums to visit in Central Asia
There are many museums in Central Asia, however, not all of them have large online collections or exhibitions. Here is a list of interesting museums that we can recommend visiting while traveling in Central Asia:
- Nur-Sultan: The National Museum of Kazakhstan
- Almaty: Museum of Almaty
- Almaty: Museum of Folk Musical Instruments
- Almaty: Kasteyev State Museum of Arts
- Bishkek: National Museum of Fine Arts
- Karakol: Prezhvalsky Museum
- Osh: The National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman
- Dushanbe: The National Museum of Antiquities
- Dushanbe: The National Museum of Tajikistan
- Khujand: The Historical Museum of Sughd
- Ashgabat: The State Museum of the State cultural centre Turkmenistan
- Mary (Merv): National History and Ethnology Museum
- Tashkent: The State Museum of Arts
- Tashkent: Museum of Applied Arts
- Tashkent: The State Museum of Timurids History
- Samarkand: Afrasiab Museum of Samarkand
- Bukhara: Ark Citadel Museum
- Bukhara: Sitora i Mohi Khosa
- Khiva: Kunya Ark Citadel
- Nukus: Savitsky museum
- 3D online view of the Uzbek museums
Google Arts and Culture
Of course, one of the most extensive online exhibitions is on the Google Arts & Culture website, which can be also accessed via an app. Just search for Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan and you will get everything related to this region, including pictures, artwork and artefacts from many museums around the world.