A digital melting pot: Women's Museum Istanbul

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Turkey`s first conceptual `Women`s Museum Istanbul` attracts global visitors
By Esra Kaymak

Turkey`s first conceptual `Women`s Museum Istanbul` attracts global visitors By Esra Kaymak

ISTANBUL - Turkey`s first conceptual `Women`s Museum Istanbul` is attracting visitors from all around the world on its website which is published in four languages.

Established online by the Women’s Culture Foundation of Istanbul, the museum aims to become an intercultural dialogue platform, where different generations and gender mingle and will have the opportunity to ‘listen to women`s histories of 2,674-year-old Istanbul’. More than 100 volunteers worldwide helped research the website’s content as well as translating and proofreading the texts.

Curator Meral Akkent explained that the museum was founded as a social peace project and says that it is important to have such intercultural places `in a world of wars`. She underlined that one of the aims of the museum is to inspire other urban centers in Turkey to found women museums dedicated to the history of their cities, and stated that a third of followers on the museum`s website and its social media accounts are men.

"Women`s history of this city not only covers what women have expressed throughout history, but it also covers a variety of themes of people from all ages, level of education, and culture. For instance, we have Byzantian Kassia, the first woman composer in the world, born in 810. In our museum, we capture the interest of music lovers."

“Or we have the first Muslim woman composer in the Ottoman Empire, Reftar Kalfa and the first woman calligrapher, Esma Ibret Hanim. Dealing with the works and lives of these women is beyond gender issues; however, they meet in the Women`s Museum Istanbul," Akkent said.

The museum`s permanent exhibition focuses on women who were born in or moved to Istanbul and who contributed to the cultural heritage of the city. Its educational programs aim to cultivate an interest in the subject of women`s history in the city and strengthen reflections on these people, dubbing the women of old as ‘grandmothers of us all’.

The temporary exhibition section of the museum will cover themes of women`s lives in the city, not necessarily restricted to the fields of art and culture, and will be open to ideas and contributions. Akkent stressed that contemporary women are also represented, such as Nilufer Verdi, the first female jazz pianist in Turkey.

"The biographies stress the continuity and integrity of the women`s movement. The movement meets history. We get closer to the woman`s movement in 1980s with Filiz Kerestecioglu and to the Ottoman movement with Efrosini Samarcidis, Elbis Gesaratsyan, Sirpuhi Dusap, Zabel Yesayan and Nuriye Ulviye Mevlan," Akkent stated.

As a virtual museum, the project displays its difference through digitalized objects, global accessibility, being independent from time and place, having multi-media opportunities on the website – such as listening to a song or watching movies or documentaries of the women featured in the museum – as well as interactivity between the museum and the visitor.

-3,000 square meters for `physical` Women`s Museum Istanbul

Akkent stated the Women´s Culture Foundation Istanbul is looking for a place with a minimum of 3,000 square meters in Istanbul where biographies of women from the permanent exhibition can be displayed. The intention is to have an interactive museum with exhibitions displayed in different dimensions. Akkent wants the experience to be an experiential one:

"The visitors will have the chance to be within the museum actively by touching, listening, jumping, lying down, getting under some objects and pushing," Akkent said.

The Women´s Culture Foundation Istanbul was established on March 8, 2010 to run the Women`s Museum Istanbul. Curator and sociologist of the museum, Akkent founded the sixth Women`s Museum of Germany/first in Bavaria, Museum Frauenkultur Regional-International in 2003, where women’s are studied in a comparative and interdisciplinary way.

Women`s Museum Istanbul is a member of the International Association of Women`s Museums and can be visited at www.istanbulkadinmuzesi.com/en

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