The twentieth century was a traumatic one for Iran. It witnessed two major revolutions, the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and experienced two coups (1921 and 1953), the first brought Reza Khan, the founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty to power, while the second removed the democratic government of Dr. Musaddiq. While the Constitutional Revolution was mainly supported by intellectuals and modernist elements, the Revolution of 1979 was embedded in the more conservative forces of tradition and Islamic fundamentalism. With the growing concepts of modernity and globalization in the 20th century, developing nations in the Middle East, Iran included, were forced to tackle and come to grips with these elements.
This paper seeks to illustrate how a privately organized museum in Shiraz, perhaps the first of its kind in the entire country, has attempted to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity by displaying a vast array of items representing a period of more than 150 years of local and national history.
The building in which the Museum is housed is more than a century old and belonged to Forugh-al-Mulk, a member of the famous Qavam family of Fars. The building itself represents traditional Persian and Islamic architecture, and is divided into the outer (biruni) and inner (andaruni) quarters. The museum houses carvings and reliefs, calligraphy, paintings, photography, figurative art, and a library. While the collection is apparently a potpourri of items, it is the first of its kind and brings with it a remarkable blend of the old and the new, the tradition and the modern, in complete harmony with each other. This study is an attempt to show how this transition is presented and how the museum has managed to achieve such a degree of success with practically little assistance or support from the local or federal government. If modernity is a state of mind that requires one to look at the past from an altogether new perspective, then the Meshkinfam Museum has managed to achieve a partial measure of success.