Musealisation as a strategy for the reconstruction of an idealised Ottoman past: Istanbul's Sultanahmet district as a 'museum-quarter'

Aykac P.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES, vol.25, no.2, pp.160-177, 2019 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 25 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13527258.2018.1475407
  • Page Numbers: pp.160-177


With culture-led urban regeneration becoming a leading policy for the transformation of historic cities, museums and heritage sites have become a key aspect of this transformation. Given the increasing demands of cultural tourism, the museum concept is expanded to incorporate the rest of the city and historic cities are presented as staged artefacts directed towards tourists, in a process known as musealisation. After the launch of the Istanbul Museum-City Project in 2004, musealisation was adopted as a common strategy for the regeneration of Istanbul's historic peninsula. Within the scope of the project, the Sultanahmet district would be converted into a museum-quarter. However, recent transformations reveal an underlying motive of glorifying the district's Ottoman past, in accordance with neo-Ottoman urban policies. This paper discusses the effects of musealisation on the transformation of the Sultanahmet district, by evaluating the policies and their implementation by concentrating on Topkapi Palace Complex, Hagia Sophia, the Great Palace Complex and Hagia Euphemia Martyrion. While the notion of built heritage always involves selection, the musealisation adopted for the Sultanahmet district is rather politically motivated, adding another level of selection through the signification of the Ottoman heritage and intentional neglect of the late-Roman and Byzantine heritage.