SADBERK HANIM MUSEUM, ISTANBUL
In a museum, even the simplest object is a messenger from the past bringing echoing voices from a world long gone. It is a strange feeling to be in contact over a gulf of centuries or millennia. Each artifact or document was made and used by other human hands long ago and has the capacity to throw light on one or more aspects of their daily lives. That is the feeling which awaits you in Sadberk Hanim Museum, named after the wife of Turkish industrialist Vehbi Koc.
It was Sadberk Hanim’s wish that a museum is founded to house her private collection, which was noted above all for its Ottoman embroideries and costumes. Unfortunately, she died on 23 November 1973, seven years before the museum opened. Her family set about restoring the 19th-century house at Buyukdere on the northern shore of the Bosphorus which had been chosen as an appropriate location for the museum, and it opened on 14 October 1980. In 1983 the museum purchased the famous collection of Hüseyin Kocabas which was put up for sale by his heirs after his death. This remarkable collection, spanning eight thousand years from 6000 BC to the end of the 19th century, represented the many different civilizations of Anatolia. Sadberk Hanim Museum now divided its collection into two, the Antiquities and Islamic and Ottoman sections, housed in buildings. The original museum building is a late 19th-century timber house near the Black Sea mouth of the Bosphorus Strait. It is half-timbered with two main storeys and an attic floor, and its architecture is influenced by traditional European vernacular style. The X-shaped wooden decorations and bosses screwed onto the façade inspired the local people to call it the ‘Screw House’ instead of its proper name Azaryan Yalisi. It was purchased by the Koc family in 1950 and they used it as a summer house until 1978, when restoration began according to plans drawn up by the architect Sedat Hakki Eldem, and the interior was fitted out to house the museum exhibits. Including the small garden, the museum has a total area of 4280 square meters.
On the ground floor are a gift shop and a small tea room. The ceiling of the original hall has a coffered ceiling of the type inspired by ancient Roman architecture, and the walls are painted in imitation of marble, as was fashionable at the time. The exhibition areas are on the ground and first floors, the attic floor being occupied by storerooms, offices and the library. When the collection of Huseyin Kocabas was purchased in 1983 this building was no longer large enough, and the Vehbi Koc Foundation purchased the half-ruined house next door which is thought to date from the early 20th century. This was restored by Ibrahim Yalcin, with the exterior faithful to the original, but the interior as a striking modern museum. Renamed the Sevgi Gonul building, the new section housing the pre-Islamic collections opened to the public in 1988. That same year it won the coveted Europa Nostra Award for museums. The facade is revetted in wood. The building has four stories at the back and three at the front. The ground floor contains a lecture room and a conservation laboratory. On the next three floors are the galleries where the exhibits are arranged in chronological order over an area of 625 square meters. No daylight at all is admitted into the galleries. Sadberk Hanim Museum is a pleasure to visit, and its situation on the upper shore of the Bosphorus is a chance to get out of the city and see some enchanting scenery as well.
The museum is open daily except for Wednesdays from 10.00 to 17.00.