A. Joseph Howar Collection

For January’s Artifact of the Month, I thought I would highlight the A. Joseph Howar Collection, which came to the museum last summer. A few items from the collection have already been added to the museum’s Living in America exhibit, and it is also one of the first additions to our new collections website, AANM Collections Online.

 Joseph Howar was born Mohammad Issa Abu Al Hawa around 1879 in Palestine and arrived in America as Abraham Joseph Howar in 1904. Like many new immigrants, he began working as a peddler, but he quickly turned his career ambitions toward the building trade. He developed and owned many apartment buildings in his adopted hometown of Washington, DC. He also took on a number of philanthropic projects, such as the construction of a school in his home village of Tur in East Jerusalem. Back in the United States, one of his greatest achievements was the development of the Islamic Center of Washington, DC, the city’s first mosque. Howar was instrumental in the development and construction of the mosque, as he was the first to perceive the need for such an institution and put a great deal of work into making it a reality. Howar met his wife, Badria (Bader) Haki, on a trip home to Palestine in the 1920s. The couple had five children and lived in a grand, Tudor-style home of Joseph’s own design. They hosted many events for traveling dignitaries from the Arab and Muslim Worlds, and their parties were well known in Washington diplomatic circles. 

The bulk of the collection consists of photographs and papers that document Howar’s fascinating life. The family also donated the Egyptian Order of Merit and Jordanian Medal of Honor that had been given to Joseph Howar for his work on the Islamic Center of Washington DC.

Here are some of my favorite items from the collection:


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You can see all of these items and more by visiting the A. Joseph Howar Collection on AANM Collections Online.

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Rosemary Hakim’s Christmas Cards

It’s time for another Artifact of the Month! In honor of the upcoming holidays, I thought I would share some historical Christmas cards that are in our Rosemary Hakim collection. Ms. Hakim won the inaugural “Miss Lebanon-America” pageant in 1954, which earned her a months-long trip to Lebanon and put her in the spotlight in both the Arab American community and in the Arab World. After her reign ended, she took a role as a clerk in the Arab States Delegation Office at the United Nations, which kept her in contact with many of the people she had met overseas and introduced her to many more.

Her collection contains scrapbooks, photos, newspapers, memorabilia from her trip abroad and other items chronicling her life and work.  Among these items are a number of Christmas cards sent to Ms. Hakim in the 1950s and 1960s. These Christmas cards are from friends, associates and dignitaries from the US and the Arab World. Check out some of the cards below, and learn more about Rosemary Hakim’s collection by viewing her finding aid on our website.

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Introducing Two New Exhibitions at AANM

Last week we opened two new temporary exhibitions.

Artist Helen Zughaib’s Stories My Father Told Me will be open until April 19th in our First Floor Gallery. In 2003 Zughaib began illustrating some favorite family stories told by her father. The resulting collection of 23 works is on view as a whole for the first time.

Local/Not Local: Arabic and Iranian Typography Made in California is a group show of 10 artists from mixed Middle Eastern backgrounds who work with Arabic calligraphy. This exhibit was curated by Maece Seirafi and Pouya Jahanshahi – who also have work in the show.

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Ask A Curator Day 2014

It’s that time of year again!
Ask A Curator
Elyssa and I will be on Twitter today answering any/all questions you might have about the AANM, or really anything! Let us know what’s on your mind!

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Exhibit Changeover

Rania Matar‘s photo series Ordinary Lives came down a few weeks ago. We were sad to see it go, but so pleased to have been able to show it for a long run.
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It’s now that time of year again for the SURA student photography exhibition.
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The middle school-aged children participate in semesters or a summer-camp, learning from professional photographers and instructors. They explore Metro Detroit, meet locals and interact with their fellow students.

The Alley by Nia Scott, age 11.

The Alley by Nia Scott, age 11.

This year, the Spring-semester and summer-camp students received a special lesson from Rania Matar on her series Ordinary Lives. Many of the students then focused on finding the beauty in ordinary things.

Art on the Ground by Alondra Castaneda, Age 12

Art on the Ground by Alondra Castaneda, age 12.

The SURA exhibition runs through November 2nd, and we are recruiting students now for the next semester through Sept. 24th!


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Artifact of the Month: Swords and Shields

We recently received a very interesting donation here at the Arab American National Museum: a set of swords and shields said to be connected to the Ottoman Empire exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Like many others worldwide, the Ottomans, who controlled much of the Arab World at the time, built a display in the fair’s Midway to showcase their  culture, architecture and local products. The Ottoman display included a mosque, restaurant, and shops. The exhibit also featured many performances.  According to the information provided by the donor, his great-uncle Ahmed Agha Khudari was sent by the Ottoman government in Damascus to perform a traditional sword and shield dance at the fair. These items were used for training in Damascus before leaving for Chicago.

Training swords and shields used by presenters at the 1893 World Colombian Exposition

Training swords and shields used by performers at the 1893 World Colombian Exposition

The 1893 World’s Fair plays an important role in the story of Arab immigration to the United States. The first wave of Arabic immigration had just begun in the 1880s and the fair helped encourage that wave to continue. Many people from the Arab World came to the U.S. because of the fair, either through employment like Ahmed, or coming as tourists. Some simply stayed after the fair ended, but still others went back to their home countries and told others about the fair and about America, spurring further immigration. Additionally, sword and shield performances continued to be a staple attraction at Arab American festivals and gatherings well into the Twentieth Century. These artifacts tell both a simple story about the Ottoman performances at the fair as well as fit into a larger story about the history of Arab Americans.

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New Art Acquisitions

Recently we’ve had some fantastic contributions to our permanent art collection. Below are three of our recent acquisitions.

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Emily Jacir‘s Man at Bethlehem, Checkpoint During the Siege on April 20, 2002 from the series Bethlehem and Ramallah, 2002.

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Hani Zurob‘s untitled, 2002.

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Mary Tuma‘s fabric sculpture Twisted Rope, 2011. The rope is 60ft long and incorporates scraps of kaffiyehs, traditional dresses, and other fabrics. Click on the photo below for more detail.
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