Pembroke College Celebrates Official Openning Of Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies

Pembroke College Celebrates Official Openning Of Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies With $2M Endowment By Philanthropist Bita Daryabari

Guests admire the Shahnama exhibits at the new Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at Pemboke College. Image courtesy of the Shahnama Centre. (photograph © Nigel Luchhurst)

San Francisco, CA (June 2, 2014) – On Saturday, May 24th, Global philanthropist Bita Daryabari and speakers from around the globe gathered to celebrate the official opening of the Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England.  (Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.)  The $2 million (US) endowment by Daryabari ensured the creation of the Centre, which aims to encourage research on Persian literature, history and art. The Centre grew out of the Cambridge Shahnama Project founded in 1999 by Professor Charles Melville and originally funded by the British Academy. It has already accumulated an extensive library with the publications dedicated to Persian literary and visual culture, particularly related to the study of the Shahnama texts and their illustrated manuscripts, which are now kept in the museums and libraries all over the world. The new Centre’s director is Dr. Firuza Abdullaeva who joined the project in 2001 being a Professor of Persian at St. Petersburg University.

At the opening event, Daryabari spoke passionately about the Shahnama Centre, noting, “We can offer the world a more accurate image of Iran.”

The benefaction will find the continued study of the Persian national epic, the Shahnama or The Book of Kings by Abu’l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi and its crucial role in the formation of the Iranian cultural identity throughout the ages to present day. The text of the Shahnama, based on the ancient Iranian mythology, was completed in 1010 and is the longest poem ever written by a single author in the whole history of humankind (40.000-80.000 double verses, depending on the version).

The event, based in Pembroke’s Old Library, included an exhibition of Medieval and Contemporary art inspired by the Shahnama.

“The enthronement of Hurmuzd,” folio from an early 14th century “CAMA” Shahnama manuscript. On temporary loan to the Shahnama Centre from the collection of the late Dr. Mehdi Gharavi. Image courtesy Ameneh Gharavi and Dean Entekabi

Speakers included professors and students involved in Persian Studies at Cambridge, including Dr. Abdullaeva, Dr. Olga Davidson, Professor Touraj Daryaee and Dr. Sussan Babaie.  All expressed an optimistic outlook for the future of Persian studies at Cambridge University.

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