Imagine a museum that promotes returning to local roots through the revitalization of rural lifestyles with its thematic houses and buildings featuring rich collections and activities carried out in systematic integrity in a remote village. This museum is no other than the Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum in the northeastern Turkish province of Bayburt.
Lying on the Çoruh River, Bayburt was one of the significant centers on the Silk Road in the past. Although I have never visited the city before, I heard a lot about its historical and natural riches from Bayburt Castle to the Aydıntepe Underground City and Sırakayalar Waterfall. After a little search on the internet, I also learned that Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo was the first-known traveler who visited Bayburt in the 13th century.
Famous Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi happened by the city as well, and this historical Anatolian land was also featured in the epic tales of Dede Korkut, the wise ancestor of the Turkic world. The tales, passed on to the next generations for centuries by the Oguz Turks, were recognized by UNESCO in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
However, this beautiful city experienced a huge population loss during the last century because of the migration from villages to cities. The museum’s founder Kenan Yavuz was among the people who could see this dramatic transformation in the country coming following the abandonment of villages, a trend that endangered the heritage of the region. This is how the story of the private Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum started. Yavuz wanted to revive the past in the lands where he was born and launched a cultural center with his family to create awareness about the benefits of village life.
The Yavuz family, who initially opened the museum with their own collection in 2019, wanted to reflect how residents of Bayburt villages lived in the past by transferring their local heritage entirely to the next generations. In order to realize this dream, they decided to present their cultural center as an ethnography museum. Ethnographic museums display items to conserve customs, traditions and habits of different people and cultures. The Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum, similarly, showcases real stories of the real people of Bayburt through their belongings along with introducing the region’s local culture through diverse events.
The core structure of the museum is a two-bedroom village house, which is a replica of the one where Kenan Yavuz was born. Visitors first observe the architectural damage caused by the transformation that started with modernization and migration by examining this village house museum’s details. Inside the village house, visitors explore a rich collection based on the Yavuz family’s collection that has been expanded with objects salvaged from damaged and destroyed houses, old shops, farms and abandoned sites in the neighboring area. These objects document rural life in this region during the first half of the 20th century.
Advancing through a long hallway, on both sides of which antique doors decorated with fine craftsmanship are on display, visitors continue to discover more details about the local culture of Bayburt. While an amphitheater and open-air cinema are also included in the museum, indoor and outdoor exhibition galleries enliven its atmosphere. For example, the museum offers information about the lost tiles of Bayburt Castle through its permanent Çinimaçin exhibition area, where outstanding examples of tiles welcome visitors.
Visitors can also examine books at the Dede Korkut Turkish Identity Library while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, or visit a birdhouse featuring Bayburt pigeons in the village square section of the museum.
What is amazing about the Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum is that it makes visitors feel connected with Bayburt. When you visit the museum, you will not only learn the culture of the region but also will become a part of it. You will feel that you are not only here to observe but also to participate.
In this context, the museum organizes diverse events like festivals and lectures that focus on local songs, folktales, children’s games, recipes, endemic plants and crafts. For example, in the story competitions for the kids and storytelling hours in the library of the museum, children learn the Hekat dialect and the words of the region. Moreover, visitors can try the regional lor cheese or inspect ethnic ehram clothing and how it is woven as part of the events. In the annual harvest festival, hay is turned into rope and the successful crops are celebrated, while in the tandoor festival, visitors are shown how to make bread in the traditional tandoors.
With all the exhibits and experiences that it offers to its visitors, the Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum preserves the old traditions of the region and provides space for them to be incorporated into the lifestyles of new generations. Thanks to the efforts of the Yavuz family, this living museum has become the most-visited privately own museum in the country. On top of it, the museum was also honored with the Stiletto Prize at the 2021 European Museum of the Year Awards (EMYA).
The EMYA, which is considered the "Oscars" for museums, is one of the most long-running and prestigious museology award ceremonies in the world. The Stilletto Prize of the EMYA is given in appreciation for the excellence of museums working with the local community. According to a statement by the EMYA, the Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum was awarded the Stiletto Prize for carrying out successful and exemplary projects to promote the revival of social and economic life, bringing the immigration problem experienced due to the dramatic socioeconomic transformations in the last century to the agenda, introducing the life and stories of the local people with a corporate identity and conveying the historical and cultural heritage of the region to the world by contributing to the socioeconomic life.
As the museum has managed to find creative ways to revive the tangible and intangible heritage of the Bayburt region and to support the conscious return to local roots despite its young age, it surely deserved to receive such a significant accolade.
After receiving the prize, the Yavuz family mentioned that sincerity, authenticity and simplicity have been at the core of their work. Noting that they always continue to dig deeper into the cultural values of the Bayburt region, the family said at the online award ceremony: “Having won the Silletto Prize, we now will be able to strengthen our institutional structure and have greater support from the public. Our messages will be delivered more effectively and the impact we wish to make locally will be supported by this wonderful international recognition we’ve received.”
In short, the Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum has assumed a broader social and cultural mission for the Bayburt community and the region. Fulfilling this mission through extensive efforts, the museum awaits local and foreign visitors in Beşpınar village to introduce them to the local culture and to present unique examples of Bayburt folklore.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.