HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Drs. Joseph and Omayma Touma created a permanent gallery at the Huntington Museum of Art to contain The Touma Near Eastern Collection, consisting of more than 400 works of art donated by the couple. Now, the Toumas have funded publication of a full-color catalog highlighting selected art and artifacts of the collection.
Margaret Mary Layne, director of the Huntington Museum, said the project has been years in the making.
"We started this project like 13 years ago," she said with a laugh. "Dr. Touma proposed this project to me the year I started here. It's been a serendipitous thing to create. He wanted to pay for the photography, some was digital, some of it was done before digital. But persistence, belief in the project, breaking it down into small steps, that made it happen."
The catalog offers more than 100 object essays by Sue D'Auria, a former associate curator at the museum, a foreword by Executive Director Margaret Mary Layne, a "History of the Touma Collection" by senior curator Jenine Culligan, an introduction by Dr. Joseph B. Touma, and an essay titled "The Traditional Arts of Everyday in the Near East" by Dr. Walter B. Denny, a scholar in the field.
The full-color catalog features more than 90 pages of essays and photographs of items including glass, rugs, ceramics, manuscripts, metalwork, paintings, scientific instruments, weaponry and armor. The book was designed by HeuleGordon Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mary S. Rezny took the photographs, except for two by Mike Keller. Marshall University professor of English Michele Schiavone edited the book.
"The designers created a shadow digitally under each artifact in the book, adding great depth," Layne said. "It really makes the images pop. Each page is different."
The catalog is a great tool for Layne when she's "shopping" for exhibits to bring to the Huntington Museum.
"When we publish those catalogs, they are placed in an inter-art-museum library. We send them all over the country, and other museums then learn about our collections. We, in turn, have way more requests for loans, images to be included in other books, etc.," Layne said.
For example, the first catalog Layne mailed was to the Telfair Museum of Art, in Savannah, Ga., which has the largest public collection of works by Lebanese-American artist, poet and writer Khalil Gibran on exhibit.
"Their director called to ask if we would be interested in a swap with them when she received the catalog," Layne said. "They are going to take part of the [Touma] collection now, and we will get to exhibit part of their collection in the future.