Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tenedos Island museum awaits its visitors

Vercihan Ziflioğlu reports for Turkish Daily News on a local history museum in Bozcada, Thenedos, Turkey. (This is the island that was called Tenedos in ancient times. The ancient coins featured a double "Janiform" head (facing forward and back like the Roman god Janus) and a double axe.)

Ziflioğlu reports that Hakan Gürüney, the museum's founder, "has not been permitted to exhibit the ... coins from ancient times ... and other archeological relics he has purchased" ("despite being registered as collector of archaeological works with the Istanbul Archeology Museum"). "Because of that, he took photos of the artifacts and put them on display in the museum."

Gürüney's museum isn't state-operated. "Gürüney then decided to open a local history museum on the area he purchased in Bozcaada. He started the construction together with his wife and completed his dream museum in 2006. He meticulously placed each object he had collected in the museum and opened its doors to visitors."

Turkish citizens seem uninterested in the museum. "... lack of interest in the museum has been frustrating both for [Gürüney] and his supporters. Left to its destiny, the museum opens its doors only in summers and certain holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Its only frequenters are the granddaughters and grandsons of Bozcaada's erstwhile Greek residents who have migrated to Greece in the past decades." "... tour companies do not include visits to the museum on their sightseeing programs because they do not want to pay the YTL 2 [two Turkish New Lira, about US$1.30] price for a ticket."

Commentary: If all ancient "Turkish" coins are cultural treasures and cannot be exported because they are important to the national feelings of the Turkish people why is it illegal to show them to Turkish citizens in a Turkish museum? Ancient coins from Tenedos use the Greek alphabet to the place name and I know there are some hard feelings associated with Greek elements in Turkish history. I don't know a lot about modern politics of the region. Are bans on public displays of ancient coins in museums and bans on exports to American collectors and museums part of the same pattern or am I associating two unrelated policies?


RJO said...

I love local museums everywhere, and stories like this always sadden me. I think the future for such places (in any country) is (1) to locally join with related cultural institutions (a local library, art museum, cultural society, school, etc.), and (2) to reach out internationally via the web. In this case, however, Greek artifacts in Turkey are going to be a hard sell; Stephen Toulmin noted the same phenomenon in his magnificent book Night Sky at Rhodes (one you should definitely track down).

Does this museum have a website?

Ed Snible said...

A bit of Googling turned up the museum's website Tenedos Local History Research Center. It's extensive and available in six languages. The museum's logo is an ancient coin depicting a double axe.

I also ordered Night Sky at Rhodes.

The Wikipedia article History of the Turkish people suggests modern Turkish people descend from the original inhabitants as well as Asian Turks. I wonder if the modern residents of Tenedos feel they come from ancient inhabitants who chose to join the Turks? Perhaps they believe the descendants of the original inhabitants all left in 1923. I also wonder if the Turkish dislike of Greek things includes coins that collectors call “Greek”, such as Persian and Lycian, that weren't considered Greek during ancient times.