Istanbul’s Lesser Known Museums

Istanbul may not be a city of museums yet, but it’s well on its way. Everybody knows the private museums like istanbul modern, pera, and sakip sabanci, not to mention topkapi palace and the archaeological museums, which have been around for years. But there are lesser known museums as well.

The Population Exchange Museum
We came a long way to get here, but finally we have reached Çatalca. Our last stop Mübadele Meydanı, aka Population Exchange Square. A giant terebinth tree at one corner, - 150 years old and under protection - and a whole slew of other things. Like what? Well, houses, possessions, memories, lives… First we take a seat in a coffeehouse with little wooden stools. In a short while we are going to tour Turkey’s first and only Population Exchange Museum. Naturally, we are curious about this museum, restoration of which was completed two years ago. But there’s something right here in the street that we are even more curious about: stories of the past. “I’ll tell you,’ says Fehim Uçan, a nonagenerian of the first generation. “I was four years old. We boarded the ship in a great rush. When we disembarked we were here. All we had with us was one padded quilt. They gave us a house and a little property.” Diaries, photographs, letters, the family china and heirlooms, trousseaux, documents, embroidery… The loveliest red Cretan embroidery.

The Depot Museum
Istanbul is a city of palaces, pavilions and hunting lodges. Every one of them full of furniture and other items on display. When you think about it though, they are also museums in themselves. But what is apparent to the eye is far less than what is not. And all those myriad other items are at the Depot Museum in the heart of Beşiktaş. Opened in 2006, the Depot Museum has wooden ceilings and stone walls and a slightly acrid odor. Inside there is always music: Turkish Classical Music. Standing around are tens of thousands of objects: tile stoves, braziers, copper cauldrons, ewers and samovars, porcelain, glass, crystal, silver dinner settings, tulle and silken draperies, silver candlesticks, gas and oil lamps… The museum’s storage and exhibition areas are separate, but both are open to the public.

The Patriarchate Museum
We are on Sevgi Street in the Muhsine Hatun quarter of Kumkapı in the district of Fatih. We are going to visit the Museum of the 9th Patriarch, Hovhannes Golod, below the Armenian Patriarchate. This museum, where the holy relics of the Christian world are preserved, opened in 2006 but in fact few have ever seen it or even know it exists. It’s neither hidden nor secret nor closed to visitors, but you have to call and get an appointment in order to see it. Why? Only ten persons can enter at one time. First Secretary of the Armenian Patriarchate Vağarşag Seropyan explains: “ The red cape in the corner is one of the personal effects of Patriarch Golod, who lived at the beginning of the 1700’s. This bishop’s crown came from the Diyarbakır region in 1681. The large throne is a gift from Yıldız Palace. The big tray opposite is from Kayseri. And the large bell across from it dates to 1895. The oil paintings on the walls were restored by Hagop Egoyan.”

Print Shop Museum / Workshop
A guest has come to the open exhibition area of Rahmi M. Koç Museum: the nostalgic Print Shop Museum / Workshop.  The museum bears living witness to the history of printing, featuring printing techniques from the 1950’s and 60’s like the historic typography technique, photoengraving and manual typesetting as well as paper cutting and binding, all with live demonstrations by the old masters.

The Photography Museum
We are at the Kadırga Culture Center next to Kadırga Park in the historic Istanbul quarter of the same name. This is now the Istanbul Photography Museum. The first thing we encounter in the 1,000 square-meter museum space is a tiny gallery of photographs of Kadırga. Besides five photo galleries, there is also a photograph archive and a library. The museum’s sole exhibition is Republican Period Masters in the classics gallery with work by 50 photographers, some of whom are no longer with us. As for the temporary exhibitions that run through February 9, the first is Today in Our Photography, which consists of work by 200 photographers, schooled as well as unschooled, from every generation and walk of life, and the second, Our Printed Photography Albums, which is made up of albums, books and portfolios.

A Ship Called Gülcemal
The founding of the Population Exchange Museum was spearheaded by the Lausanne Population Exchange Foundation and Çatalca Municipality with the backing of the European Capital of Culture Agency. Its aim, to acquaint today’s young people with the way of life both before and after the exchange of the Turks who emigrated from Greece to Turkey. In the nature of an archive of documents and information about the history of the exchange, the museum also has a model of the ship, the Gülcemal, that brought the new arrivals from Greece.