Former head of Topkapı Palace says he is fed up with ministry
Ömer Erbil ISTANBUL / Radikal
History Professor İlber Ortaylı was the head of Topkapı Palace before the Culture Ministry announced his retirement.History Professor İlber Ortaylı, who recently resigned from his post in the management of Topkapı Palace, has revealed the real reason behind his resignation. “I got fed up with the culture ministry, and they were equally sick of me.”
Ortaylı was the head of Topkapı Palace for seven years, before the Culture Ministry announced his was leaving the post due to his age, a reason Ortaylı does not find convincing.
The Topkapı Palace Museum has seen major scandals over the last year. The throne of Ottoman Sultan Selim III was removed from the Topkapı Palace Museum’s Harem section and haphazardly carried off to museum director Yusuf Benli’s personal residence, according to allegations. The throne was also allegedly kept waiting in the rain in front of Benli’s main entrance, since it did not fit through his doorway. Two employees have been reassigned to other historical museums in connection with this scandal.
Benli also stands accused of serving his visitors breakfast on historic pieces, including a Louis XIV-style marble table decorated with paintings. Further allegations have arisen during the investigation of charges, accusing Benli of corruption, unlicensed excavations on museum grounds, discrimination among the museum’s experts and keeping historical objects that are registered in the museum’s records in his personal residence. Benli has since resigned from his spot.
Ortaylı said the scandals signaled mismanagement and that was chiefly because of the two-headed status of the palace. İlber Ortaylı’s title is the Head of Topkapı Palace Museum, which is more like a symbolic position as the real administrator is the Museum Director assigned by Culture Ministry.
Yusuf Benli previously referred to the situation in an interview, saying: “If Ortaylı said we should buy Turkish delights to present as treats to official visitors and I said we should give sugar candy, we will give sugar candy.”
Ortaylı said the throne scandal was a kind of “sugar candy” issue, apart from the fact that he had no idea about what was going on.
“They also held an exhibition without asking me, which included the sale of the exhibited items. Topkapı is a museum and you cannot do this in a museum.”
He also said Topkapı Palace had served as a school for him. “For historians objects are of secondary importance. We prioritize documents over objects. However, objects are also important; and I acquired this knowledge during my post at the Topkapı Palace Museum. I visited foreign museums with this notion in mind. In short, Topkapı Palace taught me to work on history with a focus on the ephemera,” he said.