Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Who doesn’t love travelling back in time and learning about ancient history? Who doesn’t love picturing themselves back in the day, understanding more about the way of life, and how things came to be the way they are nowadays?
The Directorate of Istanbul Archaeology Museums that is dependent on the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Turkey is on the Osman Hamdi Bey Ascent that opens to the Topkapı Palace Museum from the right of the Gülhane Park Entry which is in the Sultanahmet district.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums consist of three museums. Those are Archaeology Museum, Old Eastern Works Museum and Enameled Kiosk Museum.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums, which were established as Müze-i Humayun (Empire Museum) by the famous artist and museum director Osman Hamdi Bey at the end of the 19th century, were opened to public on June 13, 1891. Besides its importance as the “first Turkish museum”, it has an importance and specialty of being one of the museum buildings that are constructed as a Museum in the World. Today, it still protects its outstanding place in the World’s biggest museums with its works more than a million belonging to various cultures.
The interest in collecting historical artifacts in the Ottoman period dates back to the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror, but the institutional emergence of museums coincides with the establishment of Istanbul Archaeological Museums in 1869 as Müze-i Hümayun (Imperial Museum). Müze-i Humayun, housing the archaeological works collected in the Hagia Irene Church, is the foundation of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The Tiled Kiosk built during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror, was converted into a museum because of the insufficiency of Hagia Irene. The Tiled Kiosk which is still under the administration of Istanbul Archaeological Museum, was restored and opened its doors in 1880.
When Osman Hamdi Bey was assigned as the museum director in 1881, there was a breakthrough in Turkish museology. Osman Hamdi Bey excavated in Mount Nemrud, Myrina, Kyme, other Alolia Necropolises and Lagina Hekate Temple and as a result of excavations he conducted in Sayda (Sidon) between 1887-1888, he reached the necropolis of King Sidon and returned to Istanbul with many sarcophagi, especially the famous one; Alexander the Great.
In the museum collections, there are rich and very important works of art belonging to various civilizations from the regions from Balkans to Africa, from Anatolia and Mesopotamia to Arab Peninsula and Afghanistan that were in the borders of the Ottoman Empire.
The Archaeology Museum consists of two separate buildings.
Its construction was started in 1881 by Osman Hamdi Bey and with the additions in 1902 and 1908 it gained its latest form. Its architect is Alexander Vallaury. The outer face of the building was made by inspiring from the İskender Tomb and Crying Women tombs. It is a beautiful example of neoclassical buildings in Istanbul.
On the upper floor of the two storey building there are small stone works, pots and pans, small terracotta statues, the Treasure Department and approximately 800.000 Ottoman coins, seals, decorations, medals and Non-Muslim and Muslim Coin Cabinets, in which coin moulds were kept, and a Library with approximately 70.000 books.
On the bottom floor saloons of the building, famous tombs are displayed such as İskender Tomb, Crying Women Tomb, Satrap Tomb, Lykia Tomb, Tabnit Tomb that are in the Sayda king graveyard.
On the bottom floor, besides the display of tombs, there is Old Age Statuary display in which statues and reliefs from important antic cities and regions are displayed. In this display, the development of the art of statuary from the Archaic Period to the Byzantium Period is displayed in chronological order with outstanding examples.
The additional building attached to the southeast of the main building is of 6 storeys. There are depots in the two storeys under the ground floor.
The four storeys of the building are arranged as exhibition saloons. There is an inscription “Istanbul for Ages” on the first floor of the building, “Anatolia and Troia for Ages” on the second floor and “Surrounding Cultures of Anatolia: Cyprus, Syria-Palestine” on the top floor. There is Infant Museum and architectural works display on the first floor of the additional building. The Thrakia-Bithynia and Byzantium display saloon, which was opened in August 1998, can be visited on the floor with the name of “Surrounding Cultures of Istanbul”.
The museum has received the European Council Museum Award in 1991, which is its 100. Establishment Anniversary, with the new arrangement made in the lower floor saloons and the Additional Building display.
The building, which was built by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as Sanayi-i Nefise (Fine Arts School), was organized as a museum with the works made between 1917-1919 and 1932-1935. The building, which was closed for visits in 1963, was reopened again in 1974 with a new display by changing the inner parts.
On the upper floor of the two-storey building, Anatolian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Arabic works of art are displayed. Statue of Naramsin, the king of Akad, the Kadeş Agreement and Zincirli statue are the unique works of art in the museum.
Moreover, in this museum there is a “Tablet Archive” in which 75.000 documents with cuneiform writings are kept.
The kiosk that has been made by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1472 is one of the oldest examples of Ottoman civil architecture in Istanbul. It has been used as Müze-i Hümayun (Empire Museum) in between 1875-1891. It was opened to public in 1953 with the name of Fatih Museum where Turkish and Islamic works of art were displayed and it was transferred to Istanbul Archaeology Museums due to its site.
The entrance façade of the kiosk is single-flat and the back façade is of two-storeyed. There is a marble porch of 14 columns in the entrance. The entrance exedra is decorated with mosaic enamels. Various chinaware and ceramics from the Seljuk and Ottoman period are displayed in the Kiosk that consists of 6 rooms and a middle saloon. There are approximately 2000 works of art in the museum and its depots.
What other sights are near the Archaeological Museum?
Located inside the beautiful Gulhane Park, adjacent to the Topkapi Palace and the Aya Irene (Hagia Eirene) museum/concert hall, there is plenty to see in the area. It is also just a short walk from the legendary Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.
When is the Archaeological Museum open?
The Istanbul archaeology museum hours are from Tuesday-Sunday from 9 am – 6 pm. Admission is 50 Turkish Lira per person, but is free to holders of a Museum Card.
How can I get to the Archaeological Museum?
The easiest way to get there is to take a tram to Gulhane – from where it is just a short walk.