Dismantling the Archive: Representation, Identity, Memory in an Ottoman Family

SALT’s fifth “Open Archive” project focuses on the years 1900-1940 of the Said Bey Archive, which encompasses three generations from the late Ottoman period up through the early years of the Republic of Turkey.

January 21-March 23, 2014
SALT Galata, Open Archive

Dismantling the Archive: Representation, Identity, Memory in an Ottoman Family follows the idea that the story of a life is like an archive, a mass of constructed and filtered events that are unconnected to one another, random, irrational. It focuses on the years 1900-1940 of the Said Bey Archive, donated by Hatice Gonnet Bağana to SALT Research, encompassing three generations from the late Ottoman period up through the early years of the Republic of Turkey.

Maslak-Yolu

The exhibition attempts to understand how a family, as it passed through a complicated process of transition, expressed and represented itself in writing, photography, music, narratives, and material culture. It goes on to explore how family memories became intertwined with the national narrative of the young republic still in the process of formation, and how the family constructed their own identities by delineating social and class boundaries.

The exhibition aims to probe the possibilities and limitations of biographical and historiographical investigation and to make these disciplines as transparent as possible. It emphasizes the word “dismantling”, the antithesis of the integrity, order, isolation, and privacy typically attributed to archives and to biography.

Dismantling the Archive is not simply a historical and archival exhibition: it is also an exhibition on historiography and archivism and is itself an essay in historiography.

About Said Bey
Mehmed Said Bey (1865-1928) was a graduate of the Imperial School, today’s Galatasaray High School, and he went on to teach there in addition to working as an interpreter at the Ottoman palace. In the words of the French historians François Georgeon and Paul Dumont, he was a veritable “caricature of a bourgeois Istanbulite”: there was a piano in his home; every day he noted down what he had done in his diary; he enjoyed going to the cinema; he arranged for his children to be taught French by a young mademoiselle; and in the 1920s he and his family moved to an apartment in the Şişli district.

The project was conceptualized by Ece Zerman based on her master thesis and later developed as part of SALT’s “Open Archive” series. The exhibition design is by Future Anecdotes Istanbul.

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