"The funny part is that the Telfair Museum representative asked if we could ship the Damascus room down to them," Layne said.
The room has a marble floor and crown molding with a distinctive Near Eastern design. The walls and the ceiling are hand-carved and inlaid with mother-of-pearl by craftsmen from Damascus, making it obviously impossible to dismantle and move.
"She said, 'Well, I had to ask,'" Layne said.
The Huntington Museum will bring the Gibran exhibit in November 2013. Swaps between museums are becoming more and more common as an economical way to have new exhibits. They are not necessarily concurrent.
"We belong to the Southeastern Art Museum Directors Conference," Layne said. "There's a trust and collegiality and a level of comfort among the directors, so we feel good about swapping exhibits. The transportation is the biggest expense, and that falls to the museum that is borrowing the exhibit. In this economy, it's a way for institutions to cope with the soaring costs of putting up exhibitions."
The labels for the exhibit can be sent electronically between institutions. A team from Huntington will travel to Savannah with a climate-controlled truck to pack and to deliver the exhibit to West Virginia.
Another swap is planned with a museum at Auburn University in Alabama.
"They are taking some of our Haitian art and we are taking some of their modern Mexican art."
The Touma catalog will allow more swaps, Layne hopes. In the meantime, she is thankful to the Toumas for their gifts to the museum.
"People experience a culture that we often only hear about in negative terms," Layne said of the Middle Eastern exhibit. "It's a very intriguing culture for children and adults to see, and the arts are just beautiful. The exhibit is very valuable in many ways -- not just from a monetary standpoint, but also in what they teach and what people can experience. That can't be placed in monetary terms."
The catalog is available in soft cover for $29.95 plus tax and in hard cover for $35.95 plus tax in The Museum Shop at the Huntington Museum.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.