Meltem Yaşdağ (ITP 2011) | Alaçam Population Exchange Museum
Written by Meltem Yaşdağ, International Training Programme Fellow 2011 (Turkey)
After a long time thinking about the ITP blog post A Dynamic Blog is a Happy Blog, I decided to share with you a different type of museum from Turkey.
About 3 months ago, I participated in a museum workshop organised by Başkent University in Ankara. The subject of the workshop presentations was Missionary Responsibilities to Protect Cultural Heritage. My presentation was called ‘Alaçam Population Exchange Museum and its Reflections’.
Alaçam is a small town in the province of Samsun, on the Black Sea coast. It also has a dramatic background to its history.
Population Exchange was a forced migration process in the period of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Following the additional protocol signed during the Lausanne negotiations on January 30, 1923 – which decided that the Muslims outside of Western Thrace and the Turkish Orthodox people outside Istanbul were to be forced to migrate – nearly two million people were forced to leave the land they called their ‘homeland’.
One of the places that suffered this bitter experience is the Alaçam district of Samsun. In Alaçam, the Orthodox Greek population – which was considerably involved in the tobacco trade – was exchanged and, similarly, the Muslim population was brought over from Greece. The Alaçam Population Exchange Museum (Alaçam Mübadele Müzesi), opened in Alaçam in 2012 as a second immigration museum, is one of the important institutions presenting these experiences and stories through ethnographic artefacts. In the museum, items of daily use, documents and photographs brought by compulsory exchangees are presented to visitors. The museum holds all kinds of items related to the exchange, even on a small scale.
This museum, by protecting the cultural heritage of immigrants, demonstrates the importance of local museums for describing historical facts in the context of social and urban memory. In Turkey, there are six museums related to the 1923 Compulsory Exchange Period but projects continue to work towards the increase of museums to protect this cultural heritage.
Meltem Yaşdağ, PhD
Art and Architectural Historian/Culture and Tourism Expert
ITP 2011, Turkey