Mehmet Aga-Oglu Papers

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At A Glance

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  • Overview

    The Mehmet Aga-Oglu Papers, dating from approximately 1877-1947, measure 7.8 cubic feet and include writings and notes, photographs, and maps related to Dr. Aga-Oglu's work Corpus of Islamic Work, which was never published due to Dr. Aga-Oglu's death in 1949.
  • Creator

    Aga-Oglu, Mehmet, 1896-1949
  • Dates

    circa 1877-1947
  • Physical Description

    7.8 Cubic feet (consisting of 12 boxes and 9 oversized flat file folders.)
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    The papers of Mehmet Aga-Oglu measure 7.8 cubic feet and date from 1877 to approximately 1949. The papers largely relate to Aga-Oglu's research and writings for his unpublished work Corpus of Islamic Metalwork. The papers include manuscript drafts, research files, printed material, maps, and photographs.

    The manuscript drafts include handwritten drafts, citations attached or written onto drafts, and revision notes for his unpublished manuscript. Content includes material related to metalliferous mines, precious and base metals, and traffic of metals in Islamic and non-Islamic countries, as well as unlabeled writings related to astrolabes and synthetic protective coatings for metals.

    Research material represents a majority of the records, and consists of accumulated research notes, citation lists, and object sketches. Subjects of the research material are related to metallurgy, iconography, metals commonly used in metalwork, geology and mining, and histories of metalwork in ranging locations or eras.

    Printed material contains published articles from periodicals, a bulletin from the Detroit Institute of Arts, catalogues of scholarly publications available for purchase, and reviews of Aga-Oglu's published works.

    Graphic materials present in the collection include maps depicting areas such as the Middle East, the northern Arabian Peninsula, and Northern India during different eras, and hand traced maps with marked metalliferous mine locations; and a substantial number of photographs of objects and artworks.
  • Biographical Note

    Dr. Mehmet Aga-Oglu was an Islamic art historian and professor born on August 4, 1896 at Erivan in Russia Caucasia.

    In 1916, Dr. Aga-Oglu was awarded a Doctor of Letters in the history, philosophy, and languages of Islamic countries from the University of Moscow. Following his graduation, Dr. Aga-Oglu traveled through Turkistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Asia Minor studying Islamic art. Dr. Aga-Oglu returned to academia in 1921 at the University of Istanbul where he studied the history of Islam and the Ottoman Empire.

    During his time as a student at the University of Istanbul, he traveled extensively to European universities as a part of his program of study. This included studying Near Eastern art and architecture under Dr. Ernst Herzfeld in Berlin; classical and early Christian archaeology and Western art at the University of Jena; and completing his art history studies in Vienna. Dr. Aga-Oglu was awarded a Ph.D in philosophy in 1926.

    Dr. Aga-Oglu was appointed curator by the Department of the National Museum in Istanbul in 1927. In 1929, the city of Detroit recruited Dr. Aga-Oglu to build the Department of Near Eastern Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. In 1933, he was appointed as Chair of the History of Islamic Art at the University of Michigan. He joined the university first as a Freer Fellow and Lecturer and then later became a professor.

    Dr. Aga-Oglu's accomplishments during his tenure included representing the University and the Detroit Institute of the Arts at the Millennium Celebration of Firdausi and the Congress of Orientalists in Tehran in 1934; organizing an exhibition of Islamic art at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco in 1937; founding and serving as editor of the periodical Ars Islamica; and serving as a Visiting Professor at the Summer Seminar of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Princeton University in 1935 and 1938.

    Following his departure from the University of Michigan in 1938, Dr. Aga-Oglu primarily focused on research and writing. His publications include Persian Bookbindings of the Fifteenth Century, History of Islamic Art, and Safawid Rugs and Textiles. From 1948 to 1949, Dr. Aga-Oglu consulted for the Textile Museum in Washington D.C.

    Beginning in 1940, Dr. Aga-Oglu planned, researched, and wrote drafts of his unpublished work Corpus of Islamic Metalwork. His project was intended to be a multi-volume work, but was not completed. Dr. Aga-Oglu died on July 4, 1949.
  • Creator

    Aga-Oglu, Mehmet, 1896-1949
  • Place

    Detroit (Mich.)
    Istanbul (Turkey)
    Berlin (Germany)
  • Topic

    Art, Islamic
    Art metal-work, Islamic
  • Provenance

    Donated by Dr. Kamer Aga-Oglu in 1959.
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    Mehmet Aga-Oglu Papers
  • Sponsor

    Funding for partial processing of the collection was supported by a grant from the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund (CCPF).
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
  • Citation

    Mehmet Aga-Oglu Papers. FSA.A.10. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Dr. Kamer Aga-Oglu, 1959.
  • Arrangement

    The Mehmet Aga-Oglu papers are arranged in five series.

    Series 1: Manuscript Drafts

    Series 2: Research Files

    Series 3: Printed Material

    Series 4: Maps

    Series 5: Photographs
  • Processing Information

    In 2016, with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund, the Archives at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives implemented the use of minimal level processing standards to increase information about and facilitate access to more of our collections.

    Minimal processing included arrangement to the folder level, based on prior processing and preservation action, with retention of the pre-existing arrangement when possible. Otherwise, an order was imposed by the Processing Archivist. For this collection, minimal level processing was implemented, which included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. Non-archival housing was replaced for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.

    Minimal level processing and machine-readable finding aid completed by Max Howell, 2017 August. The initial collection record was produced by Lara Amrod in 2011.
  • Rights

    Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
  • Genre/Form

  • Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013