Located in Jackson, the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC) is dedicated to educating the American public about Islamic history and culture and the contributions of diverse Muslim communities to the world. IMMC is a venue for presenting examples and reflections of Islamic thinking, inspiration, and enlightenment, and it serves as an educational resource and partner for advancing and teaching about Islam as well as for strengthening global consciousness, historical literacy, and multicultural appreciation.
American Muslims throughout the United States have long created strong community institutions, including mosques, schools, and local and national Muslim associations. But those communities placed little emphasis on communicating to the general public the influences of Islamic culture and history. IMMC got its start in late 2000, when a group of Jackson Muslims set out to develop a six-month companion exhibition to the Mississippi Arts Pavilion exhibition The Majesty of Spain, which excluded the more than eight hundred years of Islamic influence on the Iberian Peninsula. The IMMC mounted its inaugural exhibition, Islamic Moorish Spain: Its Legacy to Europe and the West, in April 2001, and it remains a part of the museum’s permanent collection.
In October 2006 the IMMC relocated to the Arts Center of Mississippi in downtown Jackson and opened its second exhibition, The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word, which featured forty-five ancient African manuscripts from among an estimated one million recently rediscovered in the Republic of Mali. By revealing that a sophisticated, highly literate culture flourished in the city of Timbuktu beginning in the fourteenth century, these ancient documents have worked to refute stereotypical depictions of Africa as a primitive society with a strictly oral history tradition. Other exhibitions at the museum have included two photography exhibits, Capture the Spirit of Ramadan and Mosques of America.
After the tragic events of 11 September 2001, the Iraq War, and the tension between America and some Islamic countries, the IMMC has taken a more prominent role in educating the public about Islamic civilization and its influence. The IMMC serves as a national and international cultural tourism destination, as a research and educational center, and as a repository for Islamic objects with cultural, artistic, aesthetic, and historical significance. The museum researches, collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets objects, stories, and history. Further, the IMMC develops educational workshops, seminars, and other programs for teachers and the general public and offers a curriculum for grades 6–12 and institutions of higher learning. In recent years, the museum has featured texts from Timbuktu, an exhibit on Moorish Spain, and a collection of images illustrating Ramadan celebrations from throughout the world.
The museum facilitates multicultural and interfaith dialogue to promote understanding and illustrates to the American public the diversity of the Muslim community—past, present, and future. The museum has hosted more than thirty thousand visitors from all over the United States and more than thirty foreign countries. Approximately half of its visitors are students and teachers.
- Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian (December 2006)
- Jackson Clarion-Ledger (9 August 2005, 28 November 2006)
- International Museum of Muslim Cultures website, www.muslimmuseum.org
- Ann Walton Sieber, Saudi Aramco World (January–February 2006)