Conference article

Conflicting Visualities on Display

Pelin Gürol
Graduate Program in History of Architecture, Middle East Technical University, Ankara-Turkey

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Published in: Comparing: National Museums; Territories; Nation-Building and Change. NaMu IV; Linköping University; Norrköping; Sweden 18-20 February 2008

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 30:8, p. 121-127

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Published: 2008-05-20


ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


National museums in the late 19th and early 20th century of Turkish history can be interpreted as conflicting paradigms between the binary concepts of West and East; modern and traditional; patron and architect; and theory and practice. In this paper; I would like to explore within these dualities how first museum buildings functioned as a formative space or a vehicle for visualizing power; collective memory; identity; and historical heritage in two different contexts during the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish nation-state. In that sense; what I will attempt to analyze is the themes such as how Western concepts of archaeology and national museums relate to the creation of the first imperial museum during the late Ottoman period and the first national museum during the early Republican era; how national museums were constructed differently with the changes in political system – empire or nation-state; how history; archaeology and museums were utilized and represented as part of political strategies such as modernization or nationalism; how and to what extent the architectural design of museums contributed to the narrative of national museum; in other words; how the representation of the past coincided with architectural features of these museums. What kind of a relationship can be established between the contents of the first museum of the Ottoman Empire and its architectural style; and how were the objects displayed integrated with the narration and spatial formulation of the museum? I will also discuss the underlying reasons for adopting a particular architectural style for the museum building; its harmony with its environment; and compatibility of interior and exterior of the museum building; who the patrons and the clients were in the building of a national museum; what kind of power the intelligentsia had in this process; and to what extent the collections; building and location of the museums contributed to the formation of collective memory and identity; considering whether the collections of the museums; the museum buildings themselves and their visuality are the instruments of display or not.


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