The Museum of Innocence, near Istiklal pedestrian street, in Taksim, Istanbul, was created by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. It is a small, narrow, five-storey 19th-century building, where They have installed, in a precious way, the objects that relate the memory and meanings of daily use and special occasions that are described in the extraordinary novel that has the same title. It is the first museum created around the universe of a fictional novel and received the Museum of the Year Award in 2014.
Pamuk conceived the museum at the same time as the novel, in the early 1990s. The story was published in 2008 and the museum was opened in 2012. Precisely, on the day of my visit, a decade of having been opened to the public was being commemorated . The Museum of Innocence, the book, has been translated into more than forty languages. The museum is currently managed by the Masumiyet (Innocence) Foundation, which Pamuk established in 2009. It was recognized as a “private museum” by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and is part of ICOM (International Council of Museums).
The novel, which takes place between 1974 and the early 2000s, tells the story of life in Istanbul between 1950 and the beginning of this century, through memories and flashbacks concerning the lives of two families, one rich and the other poor. middle class.
Kemal, a member of the prestigious and wealthy Basmaci family, from the Nisantasi neighborhood, is about to marry Sibel, a girl from the same class, but suddenly he sees again a distant relative, Füsun, who works in a women’s clothing store. . He is older than her, about 12 years old, and they start a passionate sexual relationship in an apartment that Kemal’s mother had (in the building called Compassion) and that he used to listen to music and abstract from work life (he worked in a family business , satat). That apartment was the repository for furniture and objects that Kemal’s mother no longer used.
After Füsun marries another man, she and Kemal continue to meet for eight years, in the same building where the museum is today. After each visit, he would take an object that reminded him of the girl or a moment they shared. These objects are what make up the collection of the Museum of Innocence.
The exhibition shows the objects that Kemal, the protagonist of the novel, was collecting and that reminded him of his lover, Füsun. They are things that recount the daily life of Istanbul in those years of the end of the 20th century and are exhibited very carefully in boxes inside showcases, and represent the things used, heard, seen, collected and dreamed of by the protagonists of this story.
Exposing the objects and images, which are beautifully described in the novel, the museum creates an atmosphere that makes us relive history. It is both a fictional museum and a museum of life in Istanbul in the second half of the 20th century.
“By displaying the objects and images, which are beautifully described in the novel, the museum creates an atmosphere that makes us relive history.”
“The Museum of Innocence is based on the certainty of objects that had different uses and evoke the most absurd memories, when they are shown side by side, and that makes them recall thoughts and emotions.”
The exhibits are arranged on four of the five floors and the museum’s audio guide takes you, from the author’s voice, through each cabinet, through the chapters of the novel, and have the same numbers and titles as the book. The boxes are displayed in the same order as the chapters, with the exception of box #68, which is titled “4213 cigarette butts”, which is the largest piece in the museum, which is at the entrance.
On the top floor, where Kemal Basmaci lived from 2000 to 2007, while the museum was being built, pages from the manuscript of Orhan Pamuk’s novel are on display, as well as the first sketches for the boxes, which the author designed for every capital. On the top floor is the bed where Kemal lay while recounting his story to Pamuk.
Another Nobel book, The Innocence of Objects, published in 2012, is the catalog where the author tells the story of the project in which he invested fifteen years. In it you will find carefully selected images and photographs, where the author’s life and the city where he grew up are told, which give a new meaning to those who visit it, both ordinary and extraordinary details that swarm in every landscape of daily life. of the istanbuls.
“The spiral of time”, which is located at the entrance of the museum, can be seen from any floor, and is the axis that unites all the scenarios and around which objects that could be classified as everyday objects are exhibited, but each one has its own meaning. If Aristotle thought that time was a line that united moments worth remembering, Pamuk, as a novelist, sees history as a line that unites objects, as they are described in the novel. Just as the spiral represents time and history itself, the golden points represent moments in time in which they were lived, as well as the objects that populate history.
The video that is projected on the third floor is composed of footage from 50 movies that were filmed in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The one that is projected on the entrance floor and the second one is composed of footage from films about Istanbul in the past and, to maintain the atmosphere of the novel, to feel what the city was like when the novel was being written. The sounds resemble those of the city and are heard from every object, and it is important that one remains attentive.
The story, rebellious and advanced, recounts the relationship established by Kemal and Füsun, when it was not accepted for a woman to be “everything” before getting married, and the passion that surrounds them for many years. It begins with the preparations for Kemal’s wedding with the young Sabiel, his reunion with Füsun, with whom he played when they were both little (he was older, but they even rode a tricycle, a tricycle that is exhibited), the obsession that takes over him and describes the love attacks that took place almost daily in the dirty apartment full of knick-knacks. Objects are shown such as the handbag that Kemal bought from Füsun when they met again, which was imitation, the pearl earrings that his father gave him and that ended up in the hands of her lover. It is a story that is not only fascinating but also fun and one of the best told in Pamuk. As always, the Istanbul of the Nobel is present, with its air of melancholy and memories. The desire for Westernization of the wealthy class and the tastes and customs of the time.
The novel has 83 chapters, and the number of boxes shown in the museum is 83. Reading the book and visiting the museum is something one must do to understand the purpose of this unique project. The idea of creating it arose when the Turkish author met Prince Ali Vasib, in 1982, great-grandson of Sultan Murad V. The references to the father of the country, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and his desire to build a secular and modern country, beginning by giving him surnames to people, they are splendid.
We wish to say thanks to the author of this post for this remarkable material
the museum of innocence