From The Haluk Perk Museum Collections

Lawyer and businessman Haluk Perk is a collector who devotes his time and material wealth to preserving the cultural treasures of Turkey.

A pioneer of private museum initiatives in Turkey with the collections he has amassed, Haluk Perk is Skylife’s guest this month. We talked with him about collecting and the added value it creates.

How did you first become a collector?
I started collecting by registering with the Istanbul Archaeological Museums in 1995. I studied law at university. Law students know very well that Roman Law is one of the basic courses in any legal training. And Anatolia, along with the European continent, is one of the most important areas in which Roman civilization evolved. Apart from its capital at Rome, the largest mints where Roman imperial coins were produced were in the Anatolian cities of Efes (Ephesus), Kayseri (Caesarea) and Antakya (Antioch). My interest in Roman Law led me to study Anatolia and the Anatolian civilizations. As a result of those studies, I realized that Roman civilization was actually just a drop in the ocean among the Anatolian civilizations in general. I could say that the cultural wealth of these lands is what prompted me to become a collector.

What should we understand by the concept of cultural wealth in Anatolia?
Diversity is of course the first thing that springs to mind at the mention of the cultural wealth of Anatolia. In other words, you are rich in proportion to the number of civilizations that have flourished on your soil. To my mind, however, this is a very superficial way of looking at it. Wealth only has value to the extent that it is reflected and embodied in culture and cultural awareness. Take the example of Egypt. Compared with Anatolia, it is not as rich. If you notice, you see that civilization in Egypt was founded during the period of the Pharaonic Dynasties. Everything revolves around that. There are research institutes and departments of Egyptology in many of the world’s universities today from Europe to the U.S. We on the other hand have the magnificent Hittite civilization which was contemporary with that period. Unfortunately, however, there is no School of Hittitology Faculty either in Turkey or anywhere else in the world. Turkey has the potential to make a name for itself purely by virtue of the Hittites, yet at the same time it also has the Urartu, ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Anatolian Turkish civilizations. All these riches are waiting virtually like a raw diamond to be given the high importance they merit and be studied by the experts. The idea that we have untapped cultural and historical wealth doesn’t tell the whole story. What is important is the extent to which we add those treasures of ours to knowledge, to art, indeed to life itself. Why should we not have museums on a par with, even more outstanding than, say, the British Museum, or the Hermitage or the Louvre? As I see it, just having these unique assets is not enough; we also need to develop our approach to the subject.

What sort of artifacts make up the bulk of the museum’s collections?
I took pains to choose themes when putting together the collection. Besides artifacts such as seals, medical instruments, weapons, figurines and talismans that represent all the historical periods in Anatolia, we also created basic groups such as the Prehistoric, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Seljuk. When I was putting together the thematic groups, I also collected artifacts of the Ottoman and Republican periods which require no registration. Every thematic group is of sufficient size and value to warrant a museum in its own right.

What is your goal as a collector?
The primary aim of collecting is to acquire unknown items for research, to preserve them through conservation and, even more importantly, to publish them.

My own aim was to collect items worthy of scientific and scholarly research rather than ostentatious pieces. The reason for that was to bring to light the unknown aspects of the cultures of the Anatolian civilizations and make them known. Because I paid attention to the details, in time I acquired a number of previously unknown artifacts that could be subjects of scientific and scholarly publications. Most of the artifacts in the museum collections have not yet been published because no research has been done on them. At the same time the collections also include quite a number of unknown items.