Representing Identities in Turkish Museums
Valeria Ferraro

Following the foundation of the Turkish Republic (1923), several efforts were made to promote a common cultural identity among Turkish citizens.  According to theories formulated by the Turkish Historical Society, Turks were presented as inheritors of Turkish populations, coming from Central Asia, as well as heirs of different civilizations that inhabited the Anatolian plateau.  This interpretation of Turkish historical legacies was visually portrayed in a wide range of museums, especially archaeological and ethnographical museums, opened all over the country during the first years of the Republic.  It seems that Atatürk himself prompted for the opening of a National Museum and a Museum for Hittite Civilization in the new capital, Ankara. However, the plan for a national museum turned into the realization of the Ethnographic Museum, while the second museum was lately established as Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.  Nevertheless, what could be said about the representation of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkish museums?  It is widely known that minorities? issues are sensitive topics for Turkey, especially in consideration of negotiations for the admission in the EU.  In order to shed some light on the representation of national/minority identity (ies) in Turkish museums, this paper will focuses on two issues: the representation of ?Turkishness,? staged during the early years of the Republic, and the recent opening of minorities? museums.

The evolution of the Turkish museums? history seems to parallel the evolution in political history; so, observing  changes in cultural policies and the museological practice, it  is possible to  recognize the similar shift from the Kemalist nationalist discourse, dominant until the 1950s, to the multi-voiced landscape of the present Turkish society.  Therefore, the article will firstly consider the portrayal of Turkish identity in the Ethnographic Museum and the Museum of Anatolian Civilization.  The first museum, recently renovated (2002), was completed in the year 1927, and it hosts several examples of Seljuk and Turkish crafts. Symbolically, the place provides a double affirmation of the Turkish identity, since it hosted for many years (1938-1953) the body of Atatürk.

The second museum, in which are exhibited items of different ages and civilizations, was initially opened as Ankara Archaeological Museum; then, in the year 1967, it was re-organized and renamed with the more encompassing label of ?Anatolian Civilization.?

Secondly, the paper will consider the issue of minorities? identity, presenting two museums, established by two different communities, the Jews and the Armenians.  A brief presentation of those two museums could better serve to illustrate the nature of museums as political institutions, staging different images of Turkish/minority relations.  Although the paper discusses a limited number of cases, its aim is mainly to stimulate further debates on the role of Turkish museums as place where different representations are displayed.  The research is based on press review and published materials.

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