Turkey’s first geology museum

Turkey’s first geology museum

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
Turkey’s first geology museum

AA photo

Turkey’s first geology museum, the Istanbul University Geology Museum, is home to a collection of nearly 10,000 pieces, including rocks, fossils and minerals dating back billions of years, shedding light on the geological history of both Turkey and the world. 

The Istanbul Geology Museum was the first to gain private geology museum status in Turkey. 

Istanbul University Faculty of Engineering Geology Department academic and museum official Prof. Mehmet Keskin said the museum had special importance, as the science of geology in Turkey was born there. 

He said the Geology Institute was established within the scope of a contract between the Ottoman Empire and Germany in 1915 during World War I, and an outstanding German geologist, Associate Prof. Walther Penck, was employed for the realization of the institute. 

“Then this institute was placed in the Abdulkerim Pasha Mansion in [Istanbul’s] Vefa district. Penck, with his assistant Hamit Nafiz Pamir, initiated geological works and produced the first written documents in the same years. At the same time, the museum collections have been improved. First, rock samples and fossils in and around Istanbul were systematically collected. A fire in the mansion in 1918 caused major damage to the institute. We lost lots of artifacts and samples. In the Zeynep Hanım Mansion in Laleli, to which the museum moved in 1923, the Geology Museum received major damage from another fire that occurred in 1942. Then the museum was taken under the roof of the Faculty of Science in 1945 and the Faculty of Geology in 1978. It was moved to the new campus in Avcılar in 1990 but this time it was partially destroyed during the 1999 Marmara earthquake,” said Keskin, adding that it was reopened in 2005 with the efforts of Prof. İzver Özkar Öngen and Prof. Sinan Öngen. 

He said that the pieces in the museum revealed the history of geology, featuring many different samples from various ages.  

“Among the minerals, rocks and fossils, there is a 4.37-billion-year-old metamorphic piece of rock, which is a special one because it is one of the oldest rocks in the universe. It was formed before no living species in the world. It came from Australia. Also, we have a fossil sample called a stromatolite, which appeared 3.5 billion years ago on the coast of an ocean and belongs to primitive life forms. Stromatolites had a significant function in the formation of the world,” he said. 

Thousands of fossil varieties 

Keskin said the museum displayed thousands of types of fossils and some of them were different from the current ones because most of them had become extinct in the past, adding, “The number is about 3,800 and it increases all the time. Since it is a safe environment, geology workers from various universities donate their collections to us. We also collect new samples and bring them to the museum. Along with fossils, the museum is home to some 800 rock and mineral samples as well as 14 individual collections. In total, 10,000 samples are protected under this roof,” Keskin said. 

The professor said that the museum also welcomed researchers from around the world. 

“Everything in the museum is numbered and photographed. Researchers may come here and work freely. This is a unique archive. We have guests from the U.S. and Europe; they make reservations,” he added. 

Sultan’s collection went missing in fire  

Keskin said that a mineral and diamond crystal collection that Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid gifted to the museum in a wooden box was completely lost during the fire in 1918. 

“With the fire which occurred in the mansion in Vefa, the collection went missing. Most probably, it burned,” he added.