Reviving Istanbul’s historic libraries
Orhan Kemal Library.
Istanbul’s historic libraries and their priceless archives are being renovated by the Istanbul Province Special Directorate. The directorate, which has been serving the city particularly in the field of health and education, is now restoring historic libraries in various parts of the city and their archives.
The administration has so far completed 95 percent of the renovation of Turkey’s first state library, the Beyazıt State Library. The work, which started in 2009, will be finished with the rearrangement of the garden and square.
When the 4.23 million Turkish Liras worth of restoration work is completed, bookworms will be able to reunite with their old library in its new façade. This historical library will also serve as a cultural center where exhibitions and conferences will be organized.
Another library that has been taken under the wing of the administration is the pearl of the Üsküdar coast, Şemsi Paşa Public Library. Designed by the famed Mimar Sinan toward the end of his life and regarded as a structure that reflects his emotional world and accumulation in the best way, the restoration work in the library began in June 2012 with a budget of 611,654 liras and will soon be unveiled for the public.
A sea of knowledge in the Hagia Sophia, the I. Mahmut Library’s restoration work began last year with a budget of 1.27 million liras. Work will be completed this year and the library, which is home to centuries-old books, will last into the next centuries.
Constructed in the southern part of the structure by the sultan Mahmud I, the library features a unique section called the “Hagia Sophia Special Collection.” This section was created with books donated by Sultan Mahmud and others at the time. The extensive historical archive is home to some 5,000 books.
The Koca Ragıp Paşa Library from the 17th century in the Laleli neighborhood is also undergoing restoration. The administration finished the first level of the restoration work last year with a budget of 1.6 million liras. The second level of the restoration work has recently been tendered as well.
The Istanbul Province Special Directorate is also renovating the electric installation of the Orhan Kemal City Public Library in Beyazıd. The historical structure was built in 1463 as a factory and turned into a library in 1964. The project was allocated a budget of 359,230 liras.
The Meşihat Archive, the office archives of the Istanbul Mufti, has been transferred to a digital environment with a budget of 436,500 liras. The archive, located on the lower floor of the entrance of the Istanbul Mufti’s Office, is composed of sections of Sharia court registers and the Meşihat. The historic archive building was constructed at the end of the 19th century to keep registers secure. The wooden stacks are said to have been made by Sultan Abdulhamid II himself, who was an avid amateur carpenter. About 10,000 registers of the Sharia courts in Istanbul, over 5,000 registers and at least 10,000 documents belonging to the former Şeyhülislam’s Office are preserved in this archive.