Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Küçük müzeler

Far be it from me to suggest a kinship with a Nobel Prize-winning author, but Orhan Pamuk and I do have something in common: a love for small museums.

While big institutions such as the Louvre or the Uffizi can sometimes leave me cold, I rarely miss the chance to check out a small town's dustiest collection of ephemera. On a trip last fall to the Western U.S., I even entertained idle fantasies of apprenticing myself to whoever ran the historical society in Silverton, a miniscule old mining town that I adored, and then taking over the museum once she (for it surely is an elderly she) retired.

The Türk-İslam Eserleri Müzesi (Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum) in Edirne will always have a special place in my heart for its utterly random assortment of Ottoman pistols, photos of famous oil wrestlers, illustrated Korans, and a local professor's collection of handwoven socks. Yes, seriously: socks. As will the Malatya Museum, where the guards said "Maşallah!" upon encountering a Turkish-speaking yabancı, as if they hadn't had a visitor all week and a foreign one maybe ever. They fell all over themselves to tell me what the "must-see" exhibits were. To be honest (sorry, guys), I found them mostly forgettable, but I'll always remember one of the guards bringing me a Turkish coffee to sip as I looked at the old coins and earthenware pottery.

The phenomenon seems to work in big cities too, as long as you get off the beaten track a bit. At the Ethnography Museum in İzmir, I got a personal tour of the collection of traditional, heavily embroidered bridal wear; delicately latticed metal coffee cups; rusty firearms; and Koran-carrying satchels. I suppose the guard may have wanted a tip, but I like to think he was just happy to have someone to whom he could show off their costumed dolls from many different countries. "Do we have one from America...? Ah, yes - cowboy!"

4 comments:

Barbara said...

I love the little museums here too, most of which seem to be thrown together with very little discernible purpose. And the American cowboy at the Izmir museum? Priceless. Next time you're in Izmir, we should go to Ataturk's wife's house near where I live. I hear that's kind of cool too.

Jen said...

It's a deal! I love all the obscure Atatürk memorabilia. Would definitely come back to İzmir and it would be great to see you guys...

owo said...

i want to go to this place! wunderkammers are the best.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't happen to be interested in a museum curator job in, say, Carbondale? It's no Silverton -- our only real claim to fame is that the elder folk grew great potatoes during the Depression -- but I think we could convince the town that you're the right girl for the job.