Art historian İlber Ortaylı bids farewell to Topkapı Museum

Art historian İlber Ortaylı bids farewell to Topkapı Museum

ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency
Art historian İlber Ortaylı bids farewell to Topkapı Museum

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay (L) presents art historian İlber Ortaylı with a replica of one of the tiles displayed at Topkapı Palace as a gift. AA photo

lber Ortaylı, one of Turkey’s most famous art historians, has stepped down from his job as director of the Topkapı Palace Museum to return to his post inacademia.

“People call [Ortaylı] ‘the person who makes history lovable,’ because he tells it with a smiling face,” Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said at a ceremony on July 1 marking the end of Ortaylı’s tenure as museum director.

“He popularized his information about history. He had a title here, and it ends today. But we will continue working together,” he said in his speech at the palace’s Mecidiye Mansion. “He will also represent our country here or abroad from time to time. He has taken significant steps in recent years to put the palace on the world agenda.”

Noting Ortaylı’s success in his field, Günay said the historian’s wisdom was known beyond the borders of the country and that he had served the palace for a long time.

Delivering a speech at the cocktail ceremony, Ortaylı said he was not retiring but that it was time to end his service at Topkapı Palace. “I return to my foundational organization, Galatasaray University.”
Speaking about his time at the palace, the historian said he learned about the more positive sides of Turkish bureaucracy and thanked those who had appointed him to the palace. He also said that those working for Topkapı Palace should love and serve it.

As for the restoration work at the palace, Ortaylı said the museum had accomplished many important things. “But the most important thing is our exhibition relationships with world museums. I hope they will continue.”

Günay said the joint exhibitions organized by Topkapı Palace were very important and that the museum would continue to request Ortaylı’s help in organizing such joint exhibitions.

After his speech, Günay gave Ortaylı a replica of one of the palace’s tiles as a gift.

Palace was in perilous state
Günay said Ortaylı was responsible for improving Topkapı Palace during his tenure.

“This place had not been [treated as it should have been given] its historic importance. When Ortaylı came into office, many public institutions occupied the palace. The Health Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Defense Ministry were among them,” he said. “We removed all of these installations over time. There were shanty houses between the Hagia Sophia and the Hagia Irene. It did not befit a historic structure that was once the center of an empire. We have gotten rid of them, trying to remove them gradually. Buses also used to enter the Sur-u Sultan at Topkapı Palace, which has now been prevented.”

Topkapı Palace is an exceptional place in world history, Günay said.

Restoration work on the Mecidiye Towers will be completed by the end of the summer, and a new restoration project is also set to begin at the Mecidiye Mansion, Günay said. “This place needs special attention every minute, just like people pay attention to their bodies.”

When asked if paintings by famous artist Füreyya Koral on the walls of a building in Harbiye would be preserved or not when the building is demolished to allow for the construction of a new hotel, Günay said all institutions had been ordered to avoid damaging any artifacts when a structure changes hands.

“The company that will build the hotel there intend to preserve them in their original place.”
Turkish Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik also attended the cocktail.