Exhibition: The Astrolabe, East and West


Astrolabes are the most admired and coveted of scientific instruments, but are also among the least understood. Capturing the movements of sun and stars, they are complex and challenging as well as mysterious, elegant and distant.

This Museum has the world's largest and finest collection of astrolabes, of which a little over a third have been brought together for this exhibition. They cover a thousand years, from the ninth century to the nineteenth and, while their technical basis lies in geometry, their cultural significance extends much further. This is reflected in the themes of the exhibition: cosmos, destiny, faith, possession and imagination. The exhibition also features a sequence of astrolabes arranged in a chronology.

Each instrument is unique, with its own individual story. But taken together they demonstrate that the astrolabe, along with its geometry and astronomy, is a cultural resource shared between Islam and the West.

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