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About Antiquities: Politics of Archaeology in the Ottoman by Zeynep Çelik

By Zeynep Çelik

Antiquities were pawns in empire-building and international rivalries; energy struggles; assertions of nationwide and cultural identities; and cross-cultural exchanges, cooperation, abuses, and misunderstandings—all with the underlying portion of monetary achieve. certainly, “who owns antiquity?” is a contentious query in lots of of today’s foreign conflicts.

About Antiquities bargains an interdisciplinary research of the connection among archaeology and empire-building round the flip of the 20 th century. beginning at Istanbul and targeting antiquities from the Ottoman territories, Zeynep Çelik examines the preferred discourse surrounding claims to the previous in London, Paris, Berlin, and manhattan. She compares and contrasts the studies of 2 museums—Istanbul’s Imperial Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—that aspired to emulate eu collections and achieve the status and gear of possessing the cloth fragments of old historical past. Going past associations, Çelik additionally unravels the complex interactions between individuals—Westerners, Ottoman determination makers and officers, and native laborers—and their competing stakes in antiquities from such mythical websites as Ephesus, Pergamon, and Babylon.

Recovering views which have been misplaced in histories of archaeology, rather these of the excavation employees whose voices have by no means been heard, About Antiquities offers very important historic context for present controversies surrounding nation-building and the possession of the past.

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33 European appreciation mattered to Ottomans, just as it did to Americans. The Imperial Museum’s growing reputation among European institutions was widely celebrated in the Ottoman press. 35 Comparing the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Imperial Museum in Istanbul frames some new questions about the role of a museum, its universality, and its sociocultural specificity in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, with ramifications that continue to echo in today’s debates.

The new museum buildings were situated in relationship to the historic buildings where antiquities were exhibited, especially to the Çinili Köşk, and carved more land from the outer gardens of the Topkapı Palace. Under 34 ◆ Ab out Ant iqui ti e s the persuasive and persistent leadership of Osman Hamdi, the museum administration dealt directly with the sultan, who would issue the needed edicts, thus eliminating the thorny problems of appropriating private property and demolition. A survey of the Imperial Museum’s construction history, published in 1927 (four years after the declaration of the Turkish Republic), reminded readers along the way that the institution had reached its respectable status among the greatest museums of the world during a period of “tyranny” (zulum) and “despotism” (istibdat), the last decades of the now defunct Ottoman Empire.

An article published in Boston five years after Reinach’s “Vandalisme,” and penned by archaeologist James Theodore Bent, started with praise for the extraordinary qualities of Osman Hamdi and concluded with his much-­resented obstinacy about keeping the antiquities at home. 8 Not everybody agreed. In an article on the newly discovered Sidon sarcophagi, T. Hayter Lewis of the Athenaeum Club offered another perspective by framing the debate around keeping the monuments in their original location or transporting them to the museum in Istanbul.

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