For the first time, images of rare objects and artefacts from ancient India and other Asian countries have been made available online by the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford.

Called Eastern Art Online: Yousef Jameel Centre of Islamic and Asian Art, the centre will provide global access to the University’s Islamic and Asian Art collections held at the Ashmolean.

The collections span the Islamic Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, and comprise a wide range of media, including ceramics, textiles, sculpture, metalwork, paintings, and prints.

The centre will initially focus on the objects and themes featured in the Ashmolean’s new galleries for the Islamic and Asian Collections, with over 1,400 of the Museum’s great treasures of Eastern Art accessible online at launch.

This resource will be an invaluable tool for historians and students for research purposes, for craftsmen and designers seeking inspiration, and for an interested and curious public all over the world.

The project began in July 2007 with the support of Yousef Jameel, a philanthropist of the arts and education.

To digitise this extensive collection, over 11,000 objects have been photographed to date, providing high quality, zoomable images of objects online.

There is an ongoing programme to update and publish all these objects on the web, making this area of the Museum’s collection available online for the first time.

Mr. Jameel said: “Knowledge should be accessible to everyone, everywhere, at any time. The Online Centre for Islamic and Asian Art will be a major step towards achieving this goal. I envisage the Centre as the hub of a future worldwide network exploring how different cultures learnt from each other and enriched peoples’ lives as a result.”

The director of the Ashmolean Museum, Christopher Brown said: “We are extremely grateful to Jameel for his generous gift. His support will enable the Ashmolean to present the art of the Islamic and Asian world to a wider audience than ever before."

He added: “Reflecting the methodology of Crossing cultures crossing time, The Yousef Jameel Centre of Islamic and Asian Art will explore the artistic cultures of Asia collectively. By examining their similarities and differences the online visitor will learn that art from the Islamic world coexists with the other great Asian artistic traditions, from India to Japan.”