History Collections
Find out more about history collections and History Day

History Collections

Find out more about history collections and History Day

Institute of Ismaili Studies

 About Ismaili Special Collections Unit

The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) holds a significant repository of heritage materials related to Ismaili communities and other Muslim traditions. These collections include nearly 3,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Indic and other languages, as well as coins, glass weights, medals and other historical artefacts, photographs and audio-visual materials, rare and special printed materials (including periodicals and magazines) and archival collections, among others.

In 2013, the IIS established the Ismaili Special Collections Unit (ISCU) as part of its continuing endeavours to systematically preserve, develop, digitise and catalogue these collections, as well as to study and facilitate research on these materials so as to contribute to the Institute’s vision of promoting scholarship on the heritage of Ismaili communities and that of other Muslim groups.


History Day 2023 contributions

A new series from the Ismaili Special Collections Unit (ISCU) and the Department of Communications and Development (DCD) was launched this year which aims to showcase items of historical importance held at The Institute of Ismaili Studies and highlight their contemporary relevance today. Through this series, expert scholars introduce a diverse range of rare manuscripts and objects, bringing specialist research to a wider audience.

Islamic Heritage Past and Present: Ismailis in History and Myth

The film, Islamic Heritage Past and Present: Ismailis in History and Myth features IIS Director Emeritus Dr Farhad Daftary on the topic of myths perpetuated about Ismailis and how modern scholarship is able to challenge them due to manuscripts held in our collection.


Ismaili-Sufi Interactions in Badakhshan Manuscripts

This short film, Ismaili-Sufi Interactions in Badakhshan Manuscripts, features Dr Orkhan Mir-Kasimov, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, exploring Ni‘matullāhī works transmitted in Badakhshan Ismaili manuscripts which shed light on Ismaili-Sufi interactions as evident from these manuscripts.


ISCU 2023 Conference: Rethinking Texts and their Contexts in Muslim Societies

This interdisciplinary conference explored the diverse trajectories and contexts of texts in Muslim societies from oral cultures to the digital age. Organised by the Ismaili Special Collections Unit in October 2023, the conference brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines to discuss how texts have shaped knowledge production, dissemination, and consumption in Muslim societies.

The conference featured discussions including the relationship between texts and human agency, the impact of technological shifts on textual practices, and the challenges and opportunities posed by the digital age. The keynote address was delivered by Professor Wendy Doniger, a leading scholar of the history of religions.

You can access the conference booklet here. The recordings from the conference will shortly be uploaded on the IIS YouTube channel.


Edited volume: Texts, Scribes and Transmission

This edited volume is available open access to download or read online for free.

The past few decades have seen a burgeoning interest in the manuscript cultures of the Muslim world. The study of manuscripts has brought to light new perspectives on the transmission of texts and larger questions of cultural practices passed down within the learned circles of premodern Muslim societies. The intellectual and literary heritage of Ismaili communities, who form a branch of Shi‘i Islam, has until recently been preserved in private and largely inaccessible libraries. This open access volume titled, Texts, Scribes and Transmission: Manuscript Cultures of the Ismaili Communities and Beyond, brings together studies offering insights on different aspects of manuscript cultures nurtured by Ismaili communities until well after the widespread dissemination of printed books.

To receive updates on the videos, access collections and for more information on ISCU, please contact naureenali@iis.ac.uk