Pelin Ayten Yaz
The exhibition, which opened in honor of the 155th anniversary of Beyoğlu Municipality,
includes many documents reflecting Beyoğlu’s past. The municipality displays nostalgic documents and personal belongings dating back to 1940s.
In honor of the 155th anniversary of Beyoğlu Municipality, the municipality is welcoming both domestic and foreign tourists to the Beyoğlu Municipal Art Gallery for an exhibit of historical local ephemera, organized by the Center for the Study of the Memory and History of Beyoğlu.
The word “ephemera” takes in any transitory written or printed matter that was not intended to be retained for long. The word is derived from Greek, and literally means something lasting no more than a day.
The exhibition, which opened on Aug. 2, includes many documents reflecting Beyoğlu’s past. For its anniversary, the municipality wanted to display nostalgic documents and personal belongings dating back to the period of the late 19th century through the 1940s. Cinema tickets, tram tickets, bank checks and drugstore prescriptions are among the documents that help to give the viewer a feeling for life in Beyoğlu in those times.
History is passed down to future generations
The aim of the exhibition is to make these historical documents available for future generations, but even older people are reminded of traditions as new generations are introduced to them. Most of the documents in the exhibit were provided by various institutions rather than individuals, as many were afraid that their delicate ephemera might be damaged. Documents were requested for the collection from collectors and institutions such as İETT (Istanbul Electric Tramway and Tunnel) and foreign banks.
The municipality expects that 20,000 visitors will see the exhibition before it closes Aug. 25. So far European tourists seem to be more drawn to the exhibition than Middle Eastern ones, as they have a specific interest in traditional items.
Prescriptions are prominent among the ephemera in the exhibition, including many from one of the oldest and most-renowned of Beyoğlu’s drugstores, Rebul, which was established by Jean Caesar Reboul in 1935 and still exists today. The municipality is now planning another exhibition specifically about the neighborhood’s old drugstores, as they had a specific place in the history of Beyoğlu.
Opticians were also important institutions in Beyoğlu. Emgen Optic, established in 1909, is one such historical Beyoğlu shop. Old advertisements for Emgen Optic are included in the exhibit, and feature the jargon of the time.
An interesting historical fact is that many of the older Beyoğlu shops whose ephemera is included in the exhibit were owned by members of minority ethnic groups, especially Levantines.
Galata, trade center of Istanbul
Galata was an important trade center for Istanbul in the period covered by the exhibit. The exhibition includes things like old bank checks and insurance documents from Galata banks. Foreign banks were used extensively in the late-Ottoman period, and the exhibit includes a number of documents from the Bank of Vienna, and Italian and French
banks, as well as the Generali Insurance Company.
The documents displayed also include photos of the Kohen Nurses’ Bookstore, which closed down some time ago, but has a significant place in the exhibition as it served the Beyoğlu public for more than 70 years. Other photographs in the exhibition include pictures of Beyoğlu hotels in Beyoğlu. The Pera Palace and the Tokatlıyan Hotel are among the neighborhood’s well-known historical hotels. Personal items such as wedding invitations in Ottoman Turkish and wedding licenses are also among the nostalgic items on display. Visitors can donate their nostalgic items to the exhibition to improve the collection. The exhibition is open between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week except Sundays.