Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Nationalism, Politics, and Museums in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP): The Case of the Panorama Museum 1453
Museums are institutions dedicated to the collection and preservation of artefacts, but they are also sites of national production that contribute to shaping the nation’s collective memory. Sometimes, history exhibited in museums becomes the centre of cultural wars that are not fought on battlefields, but on information panels and showcases: devices where the national past is contested, rewritten, and exhibited. With the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the institutional representation of Turkish national history was subject to significant changes. Conforming with the national ideology of the AKP, recently built museums focus more on Turkey’s Ottoman and Islamic heritage, and less on similarly important ones such as the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and the more recent Kemalist traditions. Investigating the case study of the Panorama Museum 1453 – one of the most popular attractions for domestic and foreign tourists in Istanbul – this paper examines the way in which politics influences collective remembrance of the past. Its goal is to trace the material links between the government, artists and historians, supporting the spread of Islamic and Ottoman history, and the new museums which exhibit it.