Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads
Open October 9, 2021–February 27, 2022

See 1,000 years of history leap off the page on a book-fuelled journey across the Silk Roads.

As you explore Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads, you will encounter books, scrolls, manuscript paintings, and textiles that shaped — not just documented — life along one of history’s most important trade networks and beyond. Like a spellbinding tale, the artifacts on display will fire your imagination, transporting you to far-away lands and times.

From a 1,000-year-old prayer sheet from northwestern China to a five-metre-long Iranian scroll of the Qur’an, or a richly coloured Jewish marriage contract from 19th-century Greece, each of these artistic marvels tells a story about the community where it originated as well as their links with other cultures.


You will also glimpse into the lives of craftspeople behind the making of books along the Silk Roads. Tools of the bookmaking trade — from a silver-inlaid bronze inkwell from 12th-century Iran to wooden moveable type from 18th-century Korea — reveal how ideas were physically recorded so they could travel across space and time.


Old technology meets digital innovation


Taking the exhibition-going experience to another level are digital interventions that open new windows onto the artistic wonders on display. These include:


  • MicroCT images of selected works, uncovering details that may not be visible to the naked eye
  • Smartphone interactives inviting you to uncover hidden stories about — and connections between — artifacts on display, and delving deeper into the history of the Silk Roads
  • A Hidden Stories digital companion site bringing to life individual objects, mapping the land and sea routes that have connected our world, and providing educational resources for educators (presented by University of Toronto Libraries in collaboration with the Aga Khan Museum)
  • A 3-D virtual tour of the Hidden Stories exhibition, which can be enjoyed from anywhere in the world!

Global stories, locally told


Though Hidden Stories examines a vast network of trade routes spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa, each of its historical artifacts comes from an Ontario-based collection. Featured in the exhibition are rarely displayed works from the Aga Khan Museum’s permanent Collection along with objects generously loaned by the Royal Ontario Museum, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Western University, and the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection.


Considered on their own, each of these works sheds light onto a time and place in history. Assembled together, they tell vivid, soaring stories about the intercultural exchange of technology, art, and ideas, the ingenuity of human beings, and a millennia-old worldwide love affair with books that continues today.




Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip, Aga Khan Museum, and
Dr. Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.)


Hidden Stories in the news


An original composition inspired by Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads



Presented in collaboration with

University of Toronto logo

Presenting sponsor

Sunray Group logo


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