Robin Johnson

Robin  Johnson

Education Consultant and Honorary Lecturer in Special Collections at the Cadbury Research Library.
Interested in community participation and the social impact of engagement with historic collections.

Location West Midlands, UK


  • Thank you Huda, for your kind comments. We are glad you enjoyed it!

  • Thank you for your comments Nina. We felt that rather than talk generally about the Qur'an, we wanted to show how important the Birmingham Qur'an is for the community of Birmingham (and beyond).

  • Many thanks Sue Ellen - glad you enjoyed it

  • Thank you Alathea - and thanks for your incisive comments throughout

  • Alphonse Mingana - the collector of the manuscripts

  • As you will see Kathleen - the parchment was, in fact, categorically not scraped and reused.

  • I know what you mean Erica - i now have a huge improved understanding of the Art of Islam after working on this project and galleries such as the Islamic gallery at the V&A in London are all the more powerful and emotional experiences for me now.

  • Thank you for your kind comment Sue

  • @emilyc @AlatheaAnderssohn We've taken on board your comments on detailed images of the mss. We will look at amending the course films to take this into account for the next run.

  • @davidm Yes, apparently Neville Chamberlain did indeed continue to write a diary, but these were 'sporadic' at best. There are lots of his travel diaries here at the CRL.
    He also wrote some personal/political diaries, covering most of his political career from 1918 onward. The period 1936 to 1940 is not a daily diary, but does contain lots of detail about...

  • Interesting article about the work going on at St Catherine's at the moment:

    I think Patricia may have meant this?

  • We took a decision not to allow this for many reasons, but mainly due to copyright issues.

  • im not sure David - I don’t think so, but will try to find out

  • In this case, we mean that the University have been completely open and accepted that any radiocarbon dating result for something over 1000 years old cannot be 100% accurate. It is a scientific result as opposed to ascribing a particular meaning to it without any other historic evidence, which we do using our palaeographical and codicological understanding of...

  • Thank you Kirsty. Glad you enjoyed it

  • Thank you Trish - yes, the input of other learners is always valuable and adds significantly to the overall impact of the course on everyone's learning journey.

  • This is what the course is about - as you will find out

  • Completely agree Patricia

  • Thank you Patricia, and thank you for your interesting and intelligent comments throughout the course.
    Yes, I think that the effect of studying, researching, conserving and sharing the Birmingham Qur'an Manuscript has been uplifting for us all here at the CRL.

  • Thank you Alyson, and thank you for your insightful comments throughout.
    Yes, for all of us educators it has indeed been a "journey", but incredibly professionally and personally satisfying to share our respect and awe for this wonderful and important piece of world history.

  • This is all covered in week 1

  • Thank you Sandra (yes Mr Akram has been a brilliant learner!)
    I agree, it is sometimes difficult to reconcile one's feelings of awe and wonder when actually seeing examples of wonderful but non-indigenous artefacts in western museums. Their historic collecting methods and techniques were sometimes 'questionable' but I guess our 21st century morals cannot be...

  • Thank you Alyson - yes, filming the people in the films was indeed a pleasure as their obvious joy in interacting with the Birmingham Qur'an Manuscript and other manuscripts was inspirational to us all.

  • Hi David, I think you are referring to the part of the transcript of the film that had to be edited out due to time constraints (it ends at 03.36). Apologies for that.
    Anyway, that being said, I think its a simple misprint in the transcript. Amr ibn al-As converted to Islam in the year 629 (or 8AH)

  • @TAhmed I'm sorry that you have been disappointed with the content of this course - it was never designed to be "academic" in the sense that you perhaps mean (i.e. aimed a degree level). It is very much an introduction to the story of the Birmingham Qur'an manuscript and how (including the rest of the Mingana collection) found its way to Birmingham.
    I must...

  • Many thanks Anne

  • And thank you for your comments throughout Patricia

  • Its also interesting to get a completely different take on a person - in this case Neville Chamberlain who is often only portrayed (very simplistically) as the Prime Minister who appeased Hitler.

  • @AlatheaAnderssohn hope the extra info was useful anyway! Btw - is reading the transcript easier than subtitles for you?

  • Thank you Alyson - very well said!

  • This is mentioned in week 3 by Sarah Kilroy in the conservation section

  • Yes, apologies Alathea - this part of the film was a last minute cut (due to keeping within time constraints). We've obviously missed the fact that the voice-over script is still on the transcript - I feel like there should be a prize awarded to you for being the first learner (out of the thousands who've completed the course) to point this out!

  • Don't apologise Patricia - this is one of the aims of the course, to help learners appreciate the beauty of the written language!

  • Hi Erica, not sure why your Kobo reader cannot play the films - not heard of this issue before. Are you able to access the films using another method?

  • Excellent analysis Alyson

  • Hopefully the broken links have now been removed or amended, we will look into adding alternative links asap.

  • Robin Johnson made a comment

    I have replaced the broken links with new links that should work

  • Quite possibly yes

  • Unfortunately, for a technical reasons our lead educator, Susan is currently unable to post comments.
    She has asked me to post this on her behalf:
    "I hope you are all enjoying the course so far - I've been reading your comments with interest , along with all of your fascinating insights and further information you've provided.
    As our recent exhibitions in...

  • As you can see from some of the comments here and also throughout the course, radiocarbon dating of historic artefacts has been, and remains, something that needs to be considered very carefully - one of the aims of this course is to help learners make up their own mind about the pros and cons of the process.

  • @AlatheaAnderssohn we will look into this

  • Yes Robert, lets not start a discussion about this on this forum

  • Many thanks - and also, thank you for your incredibly insightful and thoughtful comments throughout the course.

  • Excellent point - in our travels recently we have been incredibly impressed with the standard of care and conservation in the museums and archives we have visited in the Middle East

  • Yes, many people have found that the Muslim Womens group film to be a particularly powerful response to the BQM

  • .....hence the radiocarbon dating result of 95.4% accuracy as opposed to 100% (see week 3)

  • One of our educators - Neelam, will check on this and get back to you.

  • Hello David, thanks for this - but just for clarity, it is the FutureLearn moderators who remove content, not us, the educators. But there will be very good reasons for this.

  • love your phrase "suggests and almost irresistible origin"!

  • Yes, the University was (and is) extremely careful and considered in its response to media coverage of the BQM.

  • Yes, these are conclusions made using a variety of scientific and academic research methods. But, as you will see in week 3, the probability of the radiocarbon dating is 95.4%. Any historical research into a manuscript potentially over 1300 years old can never be 100% accurate.

  • Yes, I've always found it interesting that at a time of "Tutmania" in the early 20th Century, Cadbury and Mingana were somewhat unfashionable in their collecting of Middle Eastern manuscripts, as opposed to the more popular western interest (some might say 'obsession') in ancient Egyptian artefacts.

  • Agree Alyson - the range of press coverage (even today) of the BQM is always interesting!

  • Hello, and welcome to all learners. We look forward to your comments as the course progresses. Can I please request that all comments are made on the relevant section. For example, if you have comments or queries around the radiocarbon dating process, this is dealt with in detail in week 3. All the educators will be reading your comments as the days and weeks...

  • Thank you Maliha

  • Thank you, I agree!

  • Thank you for your kind words about Mr Afzal's video. His comments were not scripted, it was a 'one-take' film and I think we can forgive him for verbally separating Catholics and Christians, but I take your point.

  • Hello - just for clarity, the YouTube film referred to here was comprehensively discussed in a previous discussion thread, before Ol's comment.

  • See below regarding 'Iraq' language ........

  • Yes, that’s why we are saying there is a 95% accuracy rate

  • As has been previously commented on a while back - this is clearly just a slip of the tongue.

  • Thank you Bash - it is appreciated

  • I completely agree that all viewpoints are valid, but the exhibition at Birmingham Museum is called ‘Faith in Birmingham’. I don’t know the full content of the exhibition but it is a community led display of Birmingham people’s religions.

  • Thank you Linda

  • Are you sure you've completed ALL the steps - including all the mini-quizzes?

  • I will forward your comment to our IT guys to see if they can help, or at least point you in the right direction.....

  • lovely sentiment Wisam

  • Yes, this is certainly a contentious issue in the heritage world. Just think of how many thousands of ancient Egyptian mummies are on display in museums around the world for example. Someone once said to me, "What's the only difference between displaying human remains from ancient civilizations and recently deceased people - the answer is simply 'time'." In...

  • Thank you Tooba

  • Thanks Nicola, and thanks for your comments

  • Thank you for your kinds words Robert

  • Thanks Ann

  • Thank you Ahmed

  • Thank Terry - and thank you for your insightful comments throughout the MOOC

  • Thank you Celia - and for your comments throughout

  • Thanks Cathy

  • Many thanks for your kind words Nobila

  • Thank you Catherine - and for your comments

  • Thank you Lou

  • Thank you AB, and for your comments.

  • Thank you Safdar

  • Thank you for your kind comment Angelo

  • .....and every passing day adds to it!

  • Don’t apologise - I stand corrected

  • Dictionary defines paper as "material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances, used for writing, drawing, or printing on, or as wrapping material".

  • You suspect incorrectly Mark

  • interesting point Mark.....!

  • I'm afraid so Mark. Unavoidable........(for various reasons, all of which are too complex to go into here!)

  • Thank you Fariha

  • Thank you Alison, and for your comments

  • Interestingly Saad, we have been working with museums in the UAE recently and they have a policy of (when possible) trying to replace western staff with suitably qualified UAE nationals for similar reasons.

  • unfortunately this is out of our control but we will alert Future Learn

  • Yes in this regard I would - although they may be an exception! I was thinking perhaps of western Europe and North America though

  • Thank you Julie - and for your comments throughout the MOOC

  • Very interesting Julie. I think you’re right, I suspect that there are very few items from western civilisations in non-western museums!

  • Yes Nicola, we’ve been pleased to play just a very small part in this.

  • Yes Nicola. As has been said “there is more that unites us than divides us”

  • Also, this documentary was fantastic - not sure if its ever going to be repeated though