The Contribution of the Turkish Historical Society to the First Stage of the Governmental Program for the Protection of Monuments in Edirne (1933-1941): Preservation Policies and Ideology in the Representation of Architectural Heritage
Keywords: Edirne, Restoration in Turkey, Turkish Historical Society
The beginning of restoration works on a scientific base in Turkey dates back on 1933 when a specific committee for the protection of monuments (Anıtları Koruma Komisyonu) was officially appointed by the Ministry of Education. The preliminary working phase, carried on under the direction of this committee, was soon distinguished by the clear attempt to visualize the results in order to cast the monuments as national icons. The present paper's aim is to discuss this process of visualization focusing on the case study of a series of works realized in Edime from 1933 to 1944. Apart from the historical value of monuments included in the protection program, the study explores the ideological side of these works stressing their value as a pioneering enterprise of a modem nation that celebrated its emerging culture in the protection and preservation of monuments as a sign of progress and civilization. Edirne's restoration works in fact arouse a great deal of interest in the national press, becoming the best show-case for the effort of the Ministry. By this point of view the study focuses on the key-role played by the Turkish Historical Society in the construction of a visual narrative in the attempt to disseminate the result of these works. In particular the efforts of the Turkish Historical Society in advertising the scheduled interventions found their outlet in the editing of a set of postcards displaying Edirne's historical buildings. The result is a series of powerful images in which a number of buildings are re-casted as the first cultural-historical assets of the Turkish nation. The construction of this visual material was set according to a powerful aesthetic format, clear and instantly recognizable, in order to assure an immediate public reception of the historical heritage of the country. The collection of these images stands as a prime contribution in the construction of the national identity of the country thanks to the production of a collective visual heritage, that, on the ground of an effective popular aesthetics, was able to feature the idea of nation as a landscape of monuments.