ITP Research Support Grant awarded to Meltem Yaşdağ (Turkey, ITP 2011)

We are excited to announce that Meltem has received a Research Support Grant for her research project exploring migration and shared heritage, and how common histories are told in museums in different countries. Meltem is a culture and tourism expert working in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums in Turkey. Her project is entitled A Suitcase of Museum and you can read about Meltem’s research aims in her blog below.

ITP at the 2018 Museums Association Conference in Belfast
Meltem at the Museums Association Conference 2018, Belfast

Hello everyone,

The impact of ITP on the personal and professional lives of each of us cannot be ignored. Since 2011 the British Museum, ITP and sponsors provides both the international network and the support and also training opportunities that have caused important developments in my life. After participating the ITP summer programme in 2011, I went to Belfast in 2018 again thanks to ITP. In addition to the UK museums, I personally observed the current museology developments from different countries at the Museum Conference. Today, the architect of a very important development for me has again been ITP. My Research Grant 2022 application, which is one of the opportunities given by ITP, has been accepted. This application is about a research on migration museums, which I believe should be among Turkish museums for a long time.

The name of the project is: “A Suitcase of Museum: A research on the effectiveness of Aigaleo Asia Minor Culture Museum in Athens and İzmir Immigration and Exchange Memorial House in expressing the 1923 Turkish-Greek Population Exchange to the public.”

Migration pictures from Population Exchange Period

Turkish society has experienced a tumultuous transformation over the past decade. Significant demographic changes due to the additional protocol signed during the Lausanne negotiations on 30 January 1923 have been brought about by recent immigration. According to this protocol, both the Muslims outside Western Thrace and the Turkish Orthodox people outside Istanbul were to be forced to migrate. In consequence, immigration waves started from Greece and Anatolia, and nearly two million people have been forced to leave the land they call their ‘homeland’. Migration causes displacement not only of people but also of their past, homes and their cultural heritage. Until today, the first-generation emigrants directly protect this cultural heritage.

Today, this heritage has gradually come under the protection of museums. That is why my research project is called “A Suitcase of Museum”. Because the past, which is only packed in a suitcase, constitutes the artefacts of the population exchange museums in Turkey and Greece today. While these museums institutionalize the cultural heritage remaining from the exchange, they also mediate the society to face the population exchange reality. Family stories, drama and separations that have not been talked about for years by the people become talkable almost only with their museums. At this point, my aim is to investigate how the common history is told through museums in two different countries.

Museum web page of Egaleo Museum of Asia Minor Culture

İzmir Migration and Exchange Memory House on the Turkish side and the Egaleo Museum of Asia Minor Culture on the Greek side; I will evaluate them in terms of how they were established and financed, their artefacts, exhibition methods, events, visitor profile and their contribution to the cultural heritage of their country. At the end of the research, I aim to find out how and to what extent this process, which the two countries approached with prejudice, was accepted through museums, and how the common cultural heritage of the two countries was explained and shared with the society. The exchange museums of the two countries, unbelievably, overcome all difficulties and bring the two societies and cultures closer to each other. That’s why the name of my project is “A Suitcase of Museum”. Because in both museums, the items that people brought in one suitcase have become the artefacts of museums today.

İzmir Migration and Exchange Memory House, Turkey

I will go to both museums for research and conduct on-site investigations. I will be in Athens between 1st and 5th October then go to İzmir in December. First of all, I will make a detailed examination of the museum building, its budget, including the number of artefacts in the museums, how they are taken to the museum, the methods of exhibition, even the definitions used in the work information labels. I am in contact with the directors of both museums and the museum staff. I will also make an assessment with the information they provide. Besides, in the annex of the application form, I am sending the questionnaire I prepared for the museum visitors. I will also use the results of this survey in my research. I believe that my research will be an important base for the first official immigration museum planned to be opened in Turkey. Because Turkey has always been a country on the migration routes. A part of the museum to be opened will also be related to the history of population exchange. The most important feature that distinguishes the exchange from other migration movements is that it is compulsory. In this respect, my research is valuable in that it deals with museums on both sides of the issue, rather than a single point of view. In addition, I believe that it will create important data for the exchange museums, whose numbers are increasing rapidly on the Turkish side.

I’m pretty excited about my project. After I complete it, I will share both the final report and my short film, which will consist of footage and interviews that I will shoot during the research. Finally, I would like to thank dear ITP members Yolanda Theodoropoulou (ITP 2016) and Costas Vasiliadis (ITP 2014), who helped me during the writing of my project about the Athens part. Although we have never met, they did everything they could and continue to do so.

I hope it will be a useful study not only for me, but for everyone who is interested in the subject.