Turkey’s Changemakers: The Living Museum

Turkey’s Changemakers: The Living Museum

Turkey’s Changemakers: The Living Museum The Living Museum, founded with the aim of bequeathing Anatolian culture to future generations by using interactive methods, is the 10th Changemaker of the 8th season of Sabancı Foundation Turkey’s Changemakers Program.

Sema Demir is an academic on Turkish folk culture. With her husband Harun Demir, she works to protect and bequeath Anatolian culture to future generations. With this in mind she founded the Living Museum in 2007 in the Beypazarı district of Ankara, with the support of town’s inhabitants. It has since welcomed more than 1 million visitors.

Traditions from all around Anatolia greet visitors on the entrance of the museum: From Karagöz and Hacıvat to paper marbling, from traditional painting methods to wooden toy making. What’s more, all visitors are allowed to become a part of the show instead of just being spectators. The aim is to let visitors instantly experience the culture of the museum.

In addition to the Living Museum, Demir also founded the nearby Anatolia Open Air Museum – Living Village in 2016, which focuses on the architectural context of Turkish-Anatolian culture. The Living Village includes permanent and temporary exhibitions on topics such as architectural figures, traditional professions, gastronomic culture, clothing and seasonal festivals.

Within the Living Museum, Demir also established the Turkish Bath Museum, which has a reputation as Turkey’s first and the world’s third bath museum.

Overall, the Living Museum aims to hand down historic Anatolian culture to new generations. At the same time, it works as both a practical and theoretical laboratory for students of Turkish folk culture. The Living Museum also provides employment opportunities for inhabitants of Beypazarı and university students, while the museum has many volunteers from Beypazarı and its surroundings. 

Demir imagined a museum that not only exhibits the rich and deep-rooted culture of Anatolia but also allows its visitors to experience and protect that culture. The Living Museum welcomes over 200,000 local and foreign tourists every year, and Demir has contributed to the development of tourism in Beypazarı, proposing an innovative model in the area of museum studies. She made a huge difference both in handing down Anatolian culture to the next generations and in the lives the Beypazarı’s inhabitants.