It is a well-known fact that Indonesia is ignored in most survey books, exhibitions and museum collections of Islamic art and architecture. In the last decade, there have been repeated calls to expand the field of Islamic art to include hitherto excluded geographical areas, such as Southeast Asia. Often these appeals depart from the assumption that expanding the canon will confirm its underlying thesis of the spread of a particular visual culture through the Islamic religion. Some have nonetheless argued that geographical expansion will substantially challenge the conceptual parameters underpinning the canon.

In 2013, Museum Nusantara in Delft closed its doors and was therefore in search of a new destination for its collection: approximately 18,000 objects that many regard as the shared heritage of Indonesia and the Netherlands.

This research project focuses on how ‘Islam’ was collected, categorized and exhibited in Dutch museums, in particular the almost total absence of Indonesia in the narrative of Islamic art history.