Don’t sacrifice historical works for quick cash, Culture Minister says
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Conservation boards are often subject to criticism as they are the ones authorized to decide on any changes to historical and cultural assets.
“We recently held a meeting with all the members of the conservation boards across Turkey. I personally gave some advice, warning them not ‘to sacrifice our cities and our historical heritage for quick cash.’ This is our responsibility to future generations,” Kurtulmuş said.
Kurtulmuş specifically brought the restoration issue to the meeting’s agenda.
“Unfortunately we come across many places where the original features have been lost due to poor restoration work,” he said.
A major concern is that conservation boards lack the means to intervene effectively and even a physical space to operate from. “The boards need to control the restoration work at the implementation phase and to intervene when necessary,” Kurtulmuş said, adding that their conditions must be improved
Kurtulmuş has also lamented the way restoration work is carried out by different institutions, such as foundations or municipalities, and called for a more integrated approach.
Erdoğan to inaugurate the Bulgarian Iron church
Kurtulmuş has said the inauguration of the unique Bulgarian Iron Church, also known as the Bulgarian Saint Stephen Church, on the shores of Haliç, will enjoy the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Works on the church, which is one of the last pre-fabricated cast iron churches in the world, have been ongoing for many years, with the inauguration ceremony expected in the coming weeks.
“The event will mark the respect Turkey shows to other [non-Muslim] faiths,” said Kurtulmuş, adding that the ministry was working to improve the conditions of religious places so that visitors of different faiths could perform their rituals.
The need to speed excavation works
Kurtulmuş has said the ministry lacks the necessary funds to speedily and simultaneously pursue the nearly 50 excavation works currently ongoing in Turkey. “We are one of the richest countries in terms of archeology. But the excavations have tiny budgets. It is like digging with a needle. The Perge excavations in Antalya started in 1944 and only 20 or 30 percent has been unearthed to this day,” he said.
Known for its abundance of Greek and Roman artifacts, Perge is an ancient city that lies within the borders of the southern Aksu district, 17 kilometers from Antalya city center.
Kurtulmuş has said the ministry has been exploring various financial models that would allow excavations to happen in a safe and speedy way. One path currently under consideration entails looking for sponsorship. “Although there are exceptions, generally speaking, the private sector does not usually go for sponsorship,” he said.
Some 44 archeological artefacts smuggled abroad were brought back last year, according to Kurtulmuş, who said efforts to repatriate a further 56 items were still ongoing.
“The illicit trade of historical and cultural objects poses as great a threat as terrorism,” said Kurtulmuş, adding that turning a blind eye to such practices amounts to a crime against humanity.
“I have no doubt that objects from bombed areas in Syria will start to appear as exhibits in Western countries,” he said.