Is it possible to travel back or stop the time? These are perhaps two of the biggest dreams humanity has pondered for millions of years. However, the perfect spots for such experiences are right under our very noses: museums. Regardless of the scholarly aspect of the subject, museums make visitors feel the spirit of certain periods, taking them on a journey through the dusty pages of history.
Istanbul’s Hisart Live History Museum is at the forefront among these museums as a place where time seem to have stopped. Although it is impossible to bring all the richness of history back to life, Hisart may be the only place in the whole world where one can feel like they are experiencing historical events for themselves.
With its authenticity, diverse collection and elaborate curation, the museum is a unique place where visitors can observe a wide period of history ranging from the Roman Empire to the Gulf War through a legendary narration shaped by dioramas depicting striking scenes from historical events, dummy models dressed in original clothes and accessories of certain periods along with many other objects.
Hisart Museum is the product of the passion that Nejat Çuhadaroğlu, the CEO of Çuhadaroğlu Company Group, has for arts and history. Speaking to Daily Sabah, the museum's founder explained that his mother was a painter while his father was a master architect. Noting that he inherited his talent and interest in the arts and history from his parents, Çuhadaroğlu said that his mother did not want him to be an artist due to financial troubles she felt he might encounter.
Despite all denial, an unstoppable desire gradually grew inside Çuhadaroğlu. During his childhood, he started to make models, figures and sculptures from various materials like clay. He drew most of his inspiration in particular from comics.
While his interest in making models subsequently evolved into producing exclusive dioramas, Çuhadaroğlu’s interest in history lead him to become a collector. But Çuhadaroğlu also had another passion alive inside him: to share his collection with the public. Thanks to this urge, he founded Hisart Live History Museum at the former headquarters of their company in Istanbul's Çağlayan neighborhood two years after he opened an exhibition titled “Living, Fighting Ottoman and Dioramas” at the Great Mabeyn Mansion at Istanbul’s Yıldız Palace in 2012.
Hisart is a venue where Çuhadaroğlu’s dioramas, each of which is an elaborate piece of artwork in itself, and original pieces from his collection, including paintings, weapons, medals, badges and photographs, await visitors.
Çuhadaroğlu said that the museum is a reflection of his dedication to his passions, adding that the motivation behind establishing such a museum was “to provide society with lasting artifacts as part of social responsibility and to convey information and knowledge to the younger generations about glorious Turkish history.”
According to Çuhadaroğlu, Hisart is a growing museum that is adding more items to its collection by the day. Therefore, the current location of the museum, which consists of an exhibition area of 1,500 square meters spanning six floors, no longer fulfills the requirements of its rich contents. Çuhadaroğlu wants to move the museum to a larger space where valuable artifacts from his collection can easily be taken in by visitors.
Bringing together the world's leading technology, data science and art while hosting works that push the boundaries of reality with 3D animations, Hisart displays the great states that shaped the past, featuring events, wars and turning points that determined the fate of the world from a different perspective.
When I visited the museum, I observed that it offers more than a traditional museum does. The museum invites enthusiasts to experience history, not to visit it, in an atmosphere engulfed in many details.
The first feature that distinguishes the museum from others is its scope. Hisart examines historical events dating back nearly 2,000 years. The museum exhibits military and ethnographic artifacts from civilizations and events that have impacted world history, such as the Roman Empire, the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish War of Independence, World War I, World War II and the Gulf War.
Secondly, the museum presents a diverse collection of items. Explaining that collectors generally collect specific things, Çuhadaroğlu said that he has gathered a wide variety of artifacts, from weapons to ephemera, together in his collection to date and display them in their entirety at Hisart Museum.
As the third and maybe the most important feature, the museum offers a multidimensional experience to visitors. When you visit the museum, you can see dioramas showing three-dimensional simulations of historical events, examine goods belonging to said events – some of them presented on a dummy model – and also examine paintings, photos, newspapers and posters related to it. All these features make the museum one of a kind.
The word “diorama” comes from French, and it means “appearing through.” As I learned from Çuhadaroğlu, the history of this miniature model dates back to the history of wars. In the past, commanders created battlefield dioramas to develop tactics on huge tables.
The scope of dioramas has changed in time with the addition of trees, cars and human figures in them, which opened the way for their usage in various areas. Dioramas are used for theater, opera and ballet scene designs and huge film productions in the present day.
One of the richest collections of diorama art is situated in Hisart Museum. Let’s take a quick look at what else awaits visitors at this exclusive place.
The ground floor of the museum covers a wide span of time. From special accessories that show social, cultural and economic changes of the Ottomans during various eras, to artifacts from the Great Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire as well as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. The various items offer a comprehensive journey from the very beginning.
On this floor, the museum also commemorates the treacherous coup attempt that took place on July 15. Fascinating dioramas prepared by Çuhadaroğlu show the resistance of the nation on this night, with every detail included.
While the bombing of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey is seen in a diorama of 72 cm by 110 cm, another diorama, which is 120 cm by 72 cm in size, revives the historical victory of democracy on the July 15 Martyrs Bridge.
Artifacts belonging to Ottoman Sultan Selim III and a "magic" shirt thought to have protected the sultan who wore it are among the attention-grabbing pieces of the floor.
The first floor of the museum is mostly dedicated to Ottoman history. Artifacts from the period of Sultan Selim III (1761-1808) to the early 1900s decorate the floor. Among the works are precious swords, guns, flags and clothes representing the era chronologically.
Hisart Museum’s second floor puts the last era of the Ottoman Empire under the scope. The topics of this floor include the Tripoli War, Balkan Wars, World War I and the Gallipoli Campaign. In this section, it is also possible to see Atatürk models and the clothes he wore during the wars. Of course, Çuhadaroğlu’s dioramas illustrating important war scenes accompany all these items.
The third floor highlights World War I and the Turkish War of Independence. Artifacts and dioramas from the first period of World War II link this section to the upper floor, shedding light on the second global battle. The fourth floor also showcases artifacts from recent wars such as the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cyprus Peace Operation and the Gulf Wars.
The sixth and last floor of the museum is full of dioramas and figures that illustrate interesting elements of history like gladiators and Vikings and scenes from famed Hollywood movies like “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.”
All things considered, it is not surprising that Hisart Live History Museum received the "Ministry of Culture and Tourism 2020 Special Award," the most prestigious and highest value award given to those who contribute to cultural heritage and the art world by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Hisart Museum brings history alive with its legends and heroes, and it awaits new visitors seeking to explore it!
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