Do You Know the Story of Türkiye's First Museum?


5 Minute

Museums are not just buildings where archaeological artifacts and historical finds are preserved and exhibited. The definition and function of the museums constantly change over time. Today, museums have added the feature of being a very important education and research center in addition to their functions of hosting and exhibiting archaeological and historical findings. Museums have a great role in the education, culture, development, and awareness of societies. Therefore, the priorities and functions of museums today are different from those in the past. However, this development certainly took place in a historical process in Türkiye as well, and this adventure also has a starting point. At the beginning of this journey, would you like to learn the story of Türkiye's first museum, where the foundations of museology were laid in our country?

Let's start our story with museology, which plays a vital role in preserving cultural heritages ​​and transferring them to future generations. As in the rest of the world, museology begins with collecting in Türkiye. The starting point of Turkish Museology in the modern sense is based on “Mecma-ı Asar-ı Atika” (Ancient Artifacts Collection), which also forms the basis of Istanbul Archeology Museums. After the Conquest of İstanbul, the Hagia Irene Church was used as an arms storage, where the weapons used by the Ottomans and captured as spoils of war were preserved. Since the middle of the 19th century, ancient artifacts were also collected here. Later, in 1869, during the reign of Grand Vizier Ali Pasha, this church and the works in it were inaugurated as the first museum of the Ottoman Empire under the name of "Müze-i Hümayun". 

Upon the increase in the number of artifacts collected in the building, a search for a new place began and it was decided to move the museum to the Tiled Kiosk. The museum was moved to the Tiled Kiosk and opened in 1880. Osman Hamdi Bey, a very important figure in the museum history of Türkiye, was appointed as the museum director in 1881. Osman Hamdi Bey worked with Architect Alexandre Vallaury to draw plans for a  new museum and the building known today as the İstanbul Archaeological Museums were constructed. This structure is the first building designed as a museum in Türkiye and was opened in 1891 under the name of "Müze-i Hümayun". Sections such as the library, photography laboratory, and model workshop were added to the museum shortly after its opening. Additional buildings were later built to display the new artifacts found in the excavations. After these steps, new museums started to be established in other cities of Türkiye, and thus the first steps of museology in Türkiye were taken.

Now, when you visit the İstanbul Archeology Museums, you will feel the rich past behind the walls of that magnificent building. Today, İstanbul Archaeological Museums consist of three main sections; The Archaeology Museum, The Museum of Ancient Orient, The Tiled Kiosk Museum. These impressive structures are among the world's largest museums, with more than a million artifacts from various cultures and civilizations. İstanbul Archaeological Museums, an institution inherited from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Türkiye, is waiting to fascinate you with its perfect Neoclassical architecture and valuable artifacts.

Some of the other museums with a deep-rooted history that you should visit in Türkiye are; Ankara Ethnography Museum, which was the first museum built in the Republican era, İstanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum, which was established by the order of Atatürk, and Anatolian Civilizations Museum. Türkiye also hosts museums that comply with the definition of modern museology. New museums such as Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Hatay Archaeology Museum, Şanlıurfa MuseumAydın Archaeology Museum, Museum of Troy, Mersin Museum, and Adana Archaeology Museum have been designed and opened to visitors according to the understanding of contemporary museology.