3 Ekim 2015 Cumartesi

"Tayfun Serttaş uncovers forgotten İstanbul Natural History Museum" / Rumeysa Kiger - TODAY'S ZAMAN



Known for his ambitious archival projects, artist Tayfun Serttaş is currently showcasing an exhibition at Studio-X Istanbul discussing the first and only Natural History Museum in Turkish history, which was founded in 1871 but destroyed in a fire in 1918.

Rumeysa Kiger

Serttaş, who is fond of visiting natural history museums in the cities he goes to, one day encountered 400 fossils in the Paris Natural History Museum's mineralogy section that were sent by Abdullah Bey in the Ottoman Empire in exchange for 900 other pieces for İstanbul's Natural History Museum at the time. When he came back to Turkey, he looked for information about Abdullah Bey and the museum, but couldn't find anything at first.

In an interview with Today's Zaman, Serttaş explained that in the beginning, he was only able to find a stamp issued with a picture of Abdullah Bey, a symbolic headstone placed by the Turkish Red Crescent because he was its founder and an ugly bust of him in Kızılay in Ankara. Later on, he looked at the formal documents of the museum in the Ottoman archives of the Prime Ministry and learned that Abdullah Bey was an Austria-origin scientist named Karl Eduard Hammerschmidt who took shelter in the Ottoman Empire due to the Vienna uprising in 1848. When he wanted to continue his efforts in the field of zoology in the empire, he was assigned to build the first natural history museum at the Royal Military Medical School, which was located on the Haydarpaşa campus of today's Marmara University.

In 1870, Abdullah Bey -- who converted to Islam and changed his name of his own will -- started to gather a large collection using his worldwide connections. A year later, the first natural history museum of the empire was opened to the public with the name “Le Musée d'Histoire Naturelle d'École Impériale de Médecine de Constantinople.” The collection featured around 50,000 pieces, Serttaş says. They included 11,891 mineralogy and geology pieces, 2,725 plants, around 5,900 insects and around 2,500 other animals, together with 249 rare books Abdullah Bey brought from Vienna. In 1871, the museum was opened to the public and Abdullah Bey was given the title “Numunehane Müdürü” -- which could be translated as “museum director” -- due to his efforts to found such an institution at the same time period as its contemporaries in Europe.

Following the sudden death of Abdullah Bey in 1874, the museum's activities slowed down and the collection was transferred to the newly established İstanbul University's Geology Faculty. Unfortunately, the collection was burned during the notorious Vefa Fire in 1918 and the first and only natural history museum of İstanbul vanished forever.

“While constructing my relationship with this archive for this exhibition, I chose a new method rather than showcasing these archival materials I found. Using my own humble interest in natural history, I started to produce artworks. The museum itself turned entirely into a metaphor here. What I do is to question the current power regimes through the irony of a museum. Where do I stand among these power regimes and what are the scientific or other methodologies I will lean on to are some of the questions I had in mind,” he says. The exhibition, which took five years to prepare, features a large number of works using mounted animals Serttaş bought from taxidermists living abroad since it is illegal to mount animals in Turkey. They include a baby goat that was born with Down's syndrome, antelopes, raccoons, pigs and various insects. “These are all animals that died in zoos and were mounted later on; they were not killed on purpose,” he specifically underlines.

“Le Musée d'Histoire Naturelle de Constantinople” continues until Nov. 13 at Studio-X in the Fındıklı neighbourhood.

Kaynak: "Tayfun Serttaş uncovers forgotten İstanbul Natural History Museum"
Rumeysa Kiger - TODAY'S ZAMAN 30 Eylül 2015

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