Ottoman and European soldiers and uniforms from the 14th century to the end of World War I have been revived once more to commemorate historical events and bolster the collective memory.
Çuhadaroğlu Holding’s CEO Nejat Çuhadaroğlu is the person behind this huge collection. Çuhadaroğlu has been collecting historically themed models for 25 years and military objects for 15 years. These objects are now being exhibited in the “Yaşayan, Savaşan Osmanlı ve Dioramaları” (Living, Fighting Ottoman dioramas) exhibition at Yıldız Palace, which can be visited until June 6. Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Yıldız Palace Foundation, the exhibition features miniature battle scenes that recreate a number of battles from 1453 to 1923 as well as scale models designed and made by Çuhadaroğlu himself. The exhibition’s opening ceremony took place on April 12 with the participation of Ertuğrul Günay, minister of Culture and Tourism.
“This exhibition is one of 45 years worth of acquisitions, which means my whole life,” said Çuhadaroğlu at the opening ceremony. “I started painting and making sculptures and moved on to making models as my interest in history grew day by day. This exhibition brings the models and reality together. You can see the models along with original photographs of that particular historical event. I believe that this is a first in the world in this respect.”
Çuhadaroğlu indicated that his devotion to the collection will continue as he intends to extend it. “I will continue to work on this collection and I will never cease focusing on my studies,” he said. “My goal is to exhibit this collection permanently in an art space or museum befitting İstanbul and Turkey, which I wish could be allocated for this purpose. I believe that such a museum would be the first and only example of its kind in Turkey and in the world. I also plan to write books and take part voluntarily in historical films and documentaries as a consultant.”
Taking the floor after Çuhadaroğlu, Günay highlighted the importance of just an exhibition in such a historical and precious place as İstanbul. “I hope that many other Turkish citizens who own such significant collections also exhibit and share them with us,” said Günay. “This exhibition focuses on wars. Wars are a part of our recent history and collective memory that we cannot deny. But there are other aspects of our history as well. In the future, I would like to see exhibitions on the importance that the Ottomans gave to art and artists, art works, clothing and objects that different people working in the arts used in the Ottoman period.
Renovating Yıldız Palace
Minister Günay also gave some information on the renovation and restoration going on at Yıldız Palace. “We must admit that we have neglected the treasures that the Ottomans bequeathed to us for so many years. After the work done at Topkapı Palace, we are now working on Yıldız Palace. Seeing that we need a place for welcoming guests that reflects our glorious history, we are trying to turn the Mabeyn Köşkü into a reception hall for the president and prime minister of Turkey that can be used for very important receptions and is a museum at the same time.”
Günay also indicated that many unknown parts of Yıldız Palace were being renovated at the moment. “There’s a very beautiful saying: ‘You shall live looking forwards but you can understand life looking backwards’,” said Günay. “For this reason, we have to pay respect to these historical spaces and give them the value they deserve. The renovation continues at the Küçük Mabeyn Köşkü. In the attic, there will be an exhibition space where the significance that Sultan Abdülhamit placed on botany will be displayed. In addition, there are the Harem rooms. The renovation has started there as well. I believe that by the end of next year, we will be able to see and visit these places in the same way we visit Topkapı Palace.”
Günay also revealed another unknown fact about Yıldız Palace. “Did you know that there is a small opera hall within the complex of Yıldız Palace?” he asked. “The Ottoman government paid close attention to European art and they watched the first operas of the period performed on European stages at this beautiful small hall and I wonder how many people are aware of this fact. We are now trying to get use of this hall for the purpose of cultural activities.”