History of Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Consisting of three main units, Istanbul Archaeological Museums is among the most valuable museums of Istanbul and Turkey with its historical texture, more than a million artifacts and magnificent architecture. The extensive collection of the Istanbul Archeology Museum is the oldest building built as a museum in Turkey, hosting various historical artifacts from Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Mesopotamia, and the Ottoman Empire. The museum, which has won the admiration of its visitors with its fascinating atmosphere, consists of three main units: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Ancient Oriental Works, and the Tiled Pavilion Museum. Let’s check out the history of Istanbul Archaeological Museums, which have been a favorite of local and foreign tourists for years together.

Early Ottoman Example: Tiled Pavilion Museum

Built-in 1472 and located within the outer walls of Topkapı Palace, the Tiled Kiosk is the oldest building within the Istanbul Archaeological Museums complex. Tiled Kiosk, also known as the first building, built by Mehmed the Conqueror in Topkapı Palace, is an example of early Ottoman architecture that is inspired by Seljuk architecture.

In 1880, the Tiled Pavilion was converted into a museum by the Müze-i Hümayun for the exhibition of Islamic works. The historical artifacts in the museum, which was connected to Topkapı Palace in 1939, were distributed to various museums. Thus, the Tiled Pavilion loses its function as a museum. The mansion was reopened to visitors in 1953 under the name of “Fatih Müzesi” on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul. Memorabilia of Mehmet the Conqueror and works of the period are exhibited in the Tiled Pavilion, which has started to bear the title of a museum since this date.

Tiled Pavilion Museum was included in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums complex in 1981, due to its location. Today, ceramic and Iznik tile samples from the Seljuk and Ottoman periods continue to be exhibited in the museum.

From School to Museum: Museum of Ancient Oriental Works

The building of Museum of Ancient Oriental Works was built as Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (Academy of Fine Arts) in 1883 by archaeologist, museum curator and painter Osman Hamdi Bey. The architect of the building, which was used as a school for many years, is Alexandre Vallaury, a Frenchman from Istanbul. When the academy moved to Cağaloğlu in 1917, the building was allocated to the Directorate of Museums and later became a museum. There is an important reason for this change: Halil Edhem Bey, the museum director of the period, wanted the works of ancient cultures of Near Eastern countries to be exhibited separately from Byzantine and Roman works.

The Museum of Ancient Oriental Works contains historical artifacts from the pre-Islamic ages of Anatolia and Mesopotamia, as well as Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. These works include the Statue of Gilgamesh, Lugal-dalu, Puzur-Ishtar and the Istanbul 2461 Tablet, which is believed to be the oldest love poem.

Where the Ancient Civilizations Meet: Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum, the main building of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums complex, stands out as the building that hosts the most remarkable historical artifacts among the three main units. The purpose of establishing this fascinating museum is based on the excavations carried out by Osman Hamdi Bey. Osman Hamdi Bey reached the Sayda King Necropolis as a result of the excavations he carried out in Sayda (Sidon) in Lebanon. There is a need for a museum where the Sargophagi, including the Alexander Sarcophagus, the Sarcophagus of Weeping Women, the Lycian Sarcophagus, and the Tabnit Sarcophagus, which were brought to Istanbul from the Sayda King Necropolis in Sidon in 1887-1888, can be exhibited. Designed by Alexandre Vallaury, the architect of the Museum of Ancient Oriental Works, upon the request of Osman Hamdi Bey, the museum was opened to visitors on June 13, 1891, under the name of Müze-i Hümayun (The Imperial Museum).

The left wing was added to the building in 1903 and the right wing was added in 1907, creating today’s main museum building. Due to the need for new exhibition halls in the following years, an addition was made to the main museum building between 1969 and 1983 and this section was called the Annex Building. Istanbul Archaeological Museums, which host various artifacts reflecting the culture of many different civilizations and have a worldwide reputation, were selected as the Museum of the Year by the Council of Europe in 1993 and were deemed worthy of the Council of Europe Museum Prize.

A Unique Building Reflecting Different Architectural Styles: Pera Palace Hotel

Pera Palace Hotel, which is the apple of Istanbul’s eye with its magnificent structure, historical atmosphere, and timeless splendor, fascinates those who see it with its enchanting architecture. The architect of the story of Pera Palace Hotel, which started in 1895, is Alexandre Vallaury, who was given the title of “Architect of the City” by the painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey. One of the most famous works of the talented architect Vallaury, who brought many important buildings to Istanbul, was undoubtedly the Pera Palace Hotel. Alexandre Vallaury used Neo-Classical, Orientalist and Art Nouveau architectural styles together in the design of Pera Palace Hotel, which was completed in 3 years and adopted a neoclassicist approach in the exterior of the hotel.

The hotel, which is one of the most unique buildings in Istanbul with its eclectic architectural structure, has also witnessed some firsts throughout history. The hotel, which went down in history as a building other than palaces that were electrified during the Ottoman period, also hosts the first electric elevator. Pera Palace Hotel, which hosted important names such as the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, İsmet İnönü, Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock, Jacqueline Kennedy, Ernest Hemingway, and Agatha Christie, continues to keep thousands of memories alive in its walls, doors, and corridors today.

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