The invaluable Istanbul Research Institute turns 10

The invaluable Istanbul Research Institute turns 10

The Istanbul Research Institute, which focuses on Turkish history since the Byzantine times, has turned 10.

The institute, founded by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, stands just a couple steps away from the renowned Pera Museum in Istanbul’s historic Beyoğlu district.

Now, let’s see what this institution has done in the past decade.

They’ve carried out more than 150 symposiums, conferences and panels, alongside 38 temporary and 23 permanent exhibitions.

I found the opportunity to listen to some very knowledgeable experts on Byzantine studies when I came here to listen to a symposium titled “Byzantine in Istanbul” last month.

The institute, which collaborates with universities such as Oxford and Sorbonne, also gives scholarships to academics who study the Byzantine, Ottoman and Turkish Republic eras.

It has around 50,000 magazines and books and some 135,000 photographs stashed in its archives.

Also with the engravings, maps and press clippings about Istanbul that it has, the institute is truly a gem for researchers.

Why didn’t İnan Kıraç become chairman of Galatasaray Sports Club?

We came together with İnan Kıraç the other night to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the institute. Glamourous tables were set up in the historic building which now serves as a home to the institute and was designed by Italian architect Gugliemo Semprini.

At the table I was with İnan Kıraç, Prof. Dr. Zafer Toprak, who recently curated an exhibition at Istanbul’s Pera Museum, and daily Hürriyet columnist Doğan Hızlan.

“If it weren’t for Suna Kıraç, neither this place nor the Koç University [in Istanbul] would be here today,” İnan Kıraç said.

“And I would be at the Galatasaray Club,” he added.

Kıraç then told us about how journalist Abdi İpekçi — who, like Kıraç, was a Galatasaray fan — offered him the position of being the chair of the club.

But Suna Kıraç was not very pleased with this offer, according to her husband.

“She said, ‘I will get a divorce if you become chair,’” he added.

“A baby like Tofaş needs you, and, also, if you become successful, Vehbi Koç will be jealous of you,” he recalled her saying.

It’s an interesting little memory we shared at a time when we are discussing Ali Koç’s possible nomination for the Fenerbahçe Club.

In the end, Kıraç didn’t become the head of the sports club, but he did get to the helm of the Galatasaray Education Foundation. The foundation, since he took the lead, has raised $306 million.

Suna Kıraç’s last piece of work

İnan Kıraç said the “investments made in fields of education, science, and culture and arts are as valuable as the investments made in the industrial sectors.”

“This is Suna’s last piece of work,” he then said of the institute.

“But this may not be the final one.”

İnan Kıraç also spoke about how Suna Kıraç was insistent on the project to help keep the history of founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Ottoman and the Byzantine empires alive.

“Let’s not destroy the Byzantine times but instead help them live and market it to the world,” said İnan Kıraç, quoting his wife.

He then spoke about a museum project that would have come to life where the building of the current state-run radio and television TRT is.

“If the project had come to life, the complex would have been between Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately, it did not happen due to various reasons,” he said.

“I still feel sad about it,” he added.

Gila Benmayor, hdn, Opinion