You may have gathered that the UK’s academics are on strike again, and more of us this time, 74 institutions where before it was 60; nothing got solved and people are even angrier now. It’s not a particularly good time to be an academic (or indeed a student), but it does at least mean that because I can’t be working as we normally (if that’s the word) do, I can blog, and that means it’s time to wrap up the posts of photographs from my first trip to Istanbul with a final post focused on the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, or more properly, İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri.
We went to the museum twice but passed it on the way to other things nearby quite often, so I had a lot of photos from which I have had to make a brutal selection. You see, you don’t have to go in to start seeing its collections; they have more stuff than will fit indoors.
More stuff, indeed, than they can really curate, though they have in places tried…
… if, in others, they haven’t so much. The stuff lies around the city everywhere anyway; I guess this seems like care, relative to the scale of the task.
But it becomes clear once you’re in that the museum does, in a real sense, have very much bigger priorities. It’s on part of the site of the old Hippodrome, and so its actual foundations are a major part of its display.
Not everything that is huge in here started in here, either, and the museum is built around some of its exhibits rather than being a building to put them in.
Once inside, of course, it becomes clear that even if its pre-Roman history is limited, Constantinople-then-Istanbul has, as we have before remarked, piled up historical content pretty densely after that. Here’s a selection running through the periods on offer.
Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, Islamic history as presented here runs on an almost separate continuum, starting in the Middle East and only in its last minutes arriving in Istanbul. There’s almost no Ottoman stuff here; I guess for that you’d go to the Topkapı Museum, which is only next door. But this means that whereas all the Christian stuff is local to the area, pretty much, the Islamic material is from other places, and the period of this Museum’s coverage pretty much stops in 1453 when Islam arrived here. I suppose that’s where, here, archaeology ends and history starts, but if so it’s almost the only place that division can be felt in this city.
One or two objects, inevitably, bring these two histories sharply together.
I think it was this, of all the things—the huge chunk of the Hippodrome’s underparts aside, maybe—that brought home to me again that I was standing looking at the stuff of the histories, that this object in front of me was, apparently, the exact thing that you can read about in the accounts of the final siege of 1453, rescued, kept and displayed. Obviously that wasn’t a neutral act, but I’m glad that they did it. I have no deeper point to make here than this today, that sometimes a surviving object can speak to you much more loudly than a text and bring people into contact with the past more forcefully – but only if they know what it means when they see it…