The main building and exhibition halls of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums have been renovated as part of the institution's earthquake preparation, restoration and exhibit arrangement project and were reopened in an official ceremony on Friday.
The archaeology museums, which are among the most important museums in the world, have been designed in accordance with the requirements of the era through the reinforcement and renovation of the exhibition halls via the work launched in 2012.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said that the Ministry of Culture has achieved great success in the field of cultural assets and museums in the last 20 years.
Noting that they have taken very important steps for the protection of cultural heritage, Ersoy said: "We have opened new museums that present valuable works with a modern museology approach and will continue to launch more museums. We have renewed our existing museums, including the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, as well. With the museums we have built in recent years, we have become one of the leading countries. With their exhibition formats and educational activities, our museums have turned into cultural institutions that are awarded one after another around the world."
Ersoy underlined that cultural assets are the common memory of everyone and continued: "'Every illegal excavation that takes place in our country is a strike to this memory. In combating illegal excavations and the smuggling of artifacts, we have become a pioneering country. In addition, we carried out a total of 670 archaeological activities last year with studies ranging from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, from classical times to Turkish and Islamic archaeology. Turkey is now one of the countries that conducts the highest number of archaeological works in the world. Turkish archaeology has become one of the most important stakeholders of world archaeology, both with its excavations, conservation studies and scientific publications."
Speaking on the point that Turkish archaeology has reached today, the minister also mentioned the Stone Hills project, which was launched by the ministry for other sites similar and contemporary to Göbeklitepe in southeastern Şanlıurfa province. Covering an area of 200 kilometers (124 miles) from one end to the other, "Stone Hills" is an Anatolian and Upper Mesopotamian territory that hosted the earliest settled communities. The area features 12 main sites, including Göbeklitepe. Among the sites of Stone Hills are Karahantepe, Harbetsuvan, Gürcütepe, Kurttepesi, Taşlıtepe, Sefertepe, Ayanlar, Yoğunburç, Sayburç, Çakmaktepe and Yenimahalle. The area is the first known example of sedentism and social union on earth. Some seven of these big and small sites are now excavation sites that will shed light on a crucial yet little-known period of history. Excavations are being carried out by scientific delegations and the Şanlıurfa Museum Directorate under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums.
Ersoy also stated that as part of the Stone Hills excavation project, in which scientists from all over the world participate, they will organize a congress focusing on the Neolithic age in Şanşıurfa in 2023.
Reiterating that the ministry also increased the number of Turkish sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List from nine to 19, the minister then provided information on the latest restoration at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.
"Established in 1869, the Müze-i Hümayun (the Imperial Museum), today's Istanbul Archaeology Museums, crossed an important threshold when Ottoman intellectual Osman Hamdi Bey became the museum director in 1881. Despite all the shortcomings and impossibilities, Osman Hamdi Bey created an imperial museum from a small institution. With the museum building constructed in 1891 under the patronage of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the Müze-i Hümayun grew, developed, opened branches and reached its state to date," he said.
Noting that the 131-year-old museum, among one of the best in the world in terms of both quality and quantity, is entering a new era in harmony with the rapidly changing and developing world museum understanding and technological development, the minister explained that with the Istanbul Archaeology Museums Earthquake Strengthening, Restoration and Display Arrangement Project initiated by the ministry in 2012, the main building of the museum, called the classical building, and its exhibition halls have been renewed.
"As part of the works, earthquake strengthening efforts were carried out in the halls of the classical building between Hall 8 and Hall 32. The artifacts on display on the ground floor have new labels and information boards in accordance with modern museology standards. A theme was determined for each exhibition hall, and graphic designs suitable for these themes decorate the walls of the halls. All lighting systems in the halls were replaced using the latest technology. The harmony of texture, light, color, scale and theme in the displays, an exhibition arrangement that appeals to the visitor, and the use of digital applications formed the design principles of the classical building of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. Five thousand new works, including 2,000 coins, sculptures and reliefs, sarcophagi, figurines, architectural covering plates, treasures and ceramics, are now exhibited in the newly organized halls, as well," he said.
Ersoy lastly emphasized that they will continue to renovate the Ancient Orient Museum, the Tiled Kiosk Museum and the northern wing of the Classical Building within the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
The Istanbul Archaeology Museums consist of three main buildings: the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum, also known as the Museum of Islamic Art. The museum complex, which was the first museum in Turkey, contains more than 1 million artifacts belonging to the civilizations once within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.
Müze-i Hümayun, which was comprised of archaeological artifacts collected in the Hagia Eirene Church, formed the basis of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. In the later period, the Imperial Museum was closed, and then-Minister of Education Ahmed Vefik Pasha reestablished it in 1872 by assigning German historian, archaeologist, epigraphist and painter Phillip Anton Dethier as its director.
Although a new building for the museum could not be built due to financial difficulties, the "Tiled Kiosk," which was commissioned as a summer mansion by Sultan Mehmed II, was restored and started hosting the museum in 1880.
With the appointment of painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey as the director of the museum in 1881, a new era began in Turkish museology. Hamdi Bey conducted excavations in Mount Nemrud, the ancient cities of Myrina, Kyme in the Aiolis region and the Sanctuary of Hecate in Lagina. He unearthed the Necropolis of the king of Sidon as a result of the excavations he conducted in Sidon, Lebanon between 1887 and 1888. He collected many artifacts for the museum, especially the world-famous Alexander Sarcophagus that he found here. Thanks to these digs, the Istanbul Archaeology Museum became one of the most important museums in the world as well.
At that time, a new museum building was needed to exhibit these artifacts, and upon Osman Hamdi Bey's request, Alexandre Vallaury, a famous architect of the time, built today's Archaeological Museum building across from the Tiled Kiosk.
Osman Hamdi Bey had commissioned another building to be used for the Academy of Fine Arts to Vallaury in 1883. He wanted the academy students to be close to the Tiled Kiosk and the main building of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. When the academy moved to another building in Cağaloğlu, its former building near the museum was allocated to the Directorate of Museums. Then-museum director Halil Edhem Bey thought that it would be more appropriate to exhibit the works belonging to the ancient cultures of the Near East countries separately from the works of the Greek and Roman periods, so he arranged this building as the Museum of Ancient Orient.
With its three buildings, the museum mirrors Anatolian civilizations throughout the ages for visitors.