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Possessors and Possessed

Possessors and Possessed: Museums, Archaeology, and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Possessors and Possessed
    Book Description:

    Possessors and Possessedanalyzes how and why museums-characteristically Western institutions-emerged in the late-nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire. Shaw argues that, rather than directly emulating post-Enlightenment museums of Western Europe, Ottoman elites produced categories of collection and modes of display appropriate to framing a new identity for the empire in the modern era. In contrast to late-nineteenth-century Euro-American museums, which utilized organizational schema based on positivist notions of progress to organize exhibits of fine arts, Ottoman museums featured military spoils and antiquities long before they turned to the "Islamic" collections with which they might have been more readily associated. The development of these various modes of collection reflected shifting moments in Ottoman identity production. Shaw shows how Ottoman museums were able to use collection and exhibition as devices with which to weave counter-colonial narratives of identity for the Ottoman Empire. Impressive for both the scope and the depth of its research,Possessors and Possessedlays the groundwork for future inquiries into the development of museums outside of the Euro-American milieu.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92856-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Note on Orthography
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Imagine a museum. A staid building, which one enters conscientiously, paying a fee at the entrance or perhaps, if it is a museum with a sizable endowment, a subtly suggested donation. A building, that is, that requires a rite of passage for entrance into an arena promising—what? Education? Culture? To transcend the boundaries of the here-and-now outside the museum doors? To enter—what? The beautiful? The valuable? The fascinating? The educational? To enter a museum is to trust that some group of institutionally invisible people—artists, artisans, historians, museum owners, purchasers, curators—will have condensed the world into an...

  7. 1 Moving toward the Museum: The Collection of Antique Spolia
    (pp. 31-44)

    In 1996 the Turkish Ministry of Culture hosted ceremonies and a conference commemorating the sesquicentennial of museums in Turkey. Celebrations of the centennial anniversary in 1946 had established their definitive birth year. Nonetheless, in 1996 several interested parties debated the suitability of this date. Although the Ottoman government first sanctioned the collection of antiquities in 1846, some people argued that 1723 was a more appropriate starting date. In that year the Ottoman government remodeled the former Church of Hagia Irene, in use as an artillery warehouse, and included a display of valuables in the renovated structure. Others argued that the...

  8. 2 Parallel Collections of Weapons and Antiquities
    (pp. 45-82)

    During the late nineteenth century, the Ottoman museum developed out of the collections in the House of Weapons, renamed the Military Storehouse (Harbiye Anbar1) in 1839. Thus the collections remained on the grounds of the Topkap1 Palace; all but one would remain there until the end of the empire. This location played an important role in emphasizing the imperial nature of the collections, their relation to the state, and their potential audiences.

    The importance of the museum’s location came not so much from the immediacy of the royal family but from its proximity to the empire’s administrative offices. In 1853...

  9. 3 The Rise of the Imperial Museum
    (pp. 83-107)

    After the initial efflorescence of the dual collections in the former Church of Hagia Irene, the archaeological antiquities came to the fore as the military antiquities received less attention and finally, in 1877, were closed to the public. Why did the Ottoman museum shift its attention from a military to a Helleno-Byzantine heritage at this juncture? There were two primary reasons. First, the new constitution enacted soon after Sultan Abdülhamid II acceded to the throne allowed for broader inclusion of cultures under the Ottoman umbrella, which could be facilitated by an emphasis on antiquities. Second, the celebration of military history...

  10. 4 The Dialectic of Law and Infringement
    (pp. 108-130)

    Not only did the museum function as an ideological bridge between European and Ottoman heritage, under Osman Hamdi it also served as a battleground for possession of the physical elements of that heritage. The antiquities legislation of the Ottoman Empire developed as a dialectic negotiation between the writing of the law and a series of subsequent infringements that resulted in more detailed versions in 1884 and 1906. Each successive law not only addressed the deficiencies of its predecessor, it also reflected new values that had become associated with antiquities in the interim.

    Given the numerous loopholes in the 1874 antiquities...

  11. 5 Technologies of Collection: Railroads and Cameras
    (pp. 131-148)

    The process of antiquities collection in the Ottoman Empire unfolded in the context of the acquisition of technologies and practices that were new and exciting not only in the empire but in the entire world as well. The reformulation of archaeology as a large-scale science depended heavily on new modes of transportation, such as the railroad, both for people and for cargo. Similarly, photography provided new modes of documentation and transport of information. Together, these technologies transformed the ways in which cultures could be recorded and disseminated.

    The Ottoman Empire acquired these technologies, invented in Europe, at the cost of...

  12. 6 Antiquities Collections in the Imperial Museum
    (pp. 149-171)

    During the reign of Abdülhamid II, objects that had been gaining value as markers of a common identity began to fall into a system of categories and a complex of institutions of display characteristic of nineteenth-century Europe. In contrast to Europe, which was eagerly collecting trophies from recent colonial conquests, the Ottoman Empire was trying to hold on to its territories by collecting representative trophies and uniting them in the hierarchical, orderly world of its museums.

    In Europe the museum spaces that developed to display the fruits of the labors of collection reflected epistemologies and ideologies central to the ethos...

  13. 7 Islamic Arts in Imperial Collections
    (pp. 172-184)

    In 1889 a directive issued by the Council of State (Şura-ye Devlet) set out the administrative program and the organizational practices of the Imperial Museum. The collections were to be organized as follows:

    The Imperial Museum is divided into six parts. The first is for Greek, Roman, and Byzantine antiquities. The second is for Assyrian, Caledonian, Egyptian, Phoenician, Hittite, and Himariote antiquities, as well as for works by Asian and African tribes. The third is for works of Islamic fine arts. The fourth is for ancient coins. The fifth is for examples of natural history. The sixth is for the...

  14. 8 Military Collections in the Late Empire
    (pp. 185-207)

    In light of the auspicious beginnings of Ottoman museums in the dual collections at the Basilica of Hagia Irene, it would have been almost impossible to conceive of the construction of a modern Ottoman identity that did not make use of the prodigious military legacy of the empire in its construction of national heritage. Nonetheless, under Abdülhamid II, the weapons inside the former church were perceived as too dangerous to remain accessible to the public in any form. The museum closed and was heavily guarded.¹ The sovereign nonetheless retained an interest in the promotion of Ottoman identity through a military...

  15. 9 Islamic and Archaeological Antiquities after the Young Turk Revolution
    (pp. 208-216)

    By the end of the empire Ottoman museums had come full circle, with military collections regaining supremacy in the production of national identity. Nonetheless, despite all of the political confusion, economic turmoil, and prolonged military struggle of the last decade of Ottoman rule, the archaeological and Islamic museums in İstanbul did not simply manage to stay afloat, they became increasingly important voices for the emergent national struggle.

    While the Islamic identity of the Ottoman state had been central to Abdülhamid’s political program, it was only during and after the constitutionalist Young Turk Revolution of 1908–10 that concern over Islamic...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 217-226)

    What can the study of Ottoman museums have to say for the twenty-first century? Although the “Islamic threat” has replaced the “Eastern Question” in Europe and the United States, many of the internal concerns—secularism, ethnicity, populism, and elite culture—as well as many of the country’s international identifications—the only predominantly Islamic member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, vying for a slot in the European Economic Community—remain strangely similar. On the one hand, Turkey’s self-identification as “Western” not only runs the risk of denying the experience and taste of the vast majority of its population, it also...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 227-246)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-260)
  19. Index
    (pp. 261-269)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)