Scraping the layers: Tahsin Öz and his stylistic restorations in Topkapi Palace Museum, 1942-1949

By Burcu Selcen Coskun
Submitted to Session P4888 (Who Protects What! Actors of Conservation from Late Ottoman Empire to Republican Turkey, 2017 Annual Meeting
History of Architecture; Turkish Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
State-led heritage conservation was first experienced in Tanzimat Period in Ottoman Empire and continued until 1950’s in the Turkish Republican times. During this time, the institutions founded towards the end of 19th century stayed almost unchanged, like the small group of professionals on the scene of conservation of architectural heritage. The general approach towards conservation of these early years was the maintenance and safeguarding of symbolic historic buildings that had been regarded as monuments. Yet, we can speak of a selective ideal of determining which monument to conserve and which period to exhibit after the extensive restorations conducted by these institutions.
Starting his career in 1907 as the chief  accountant and  later in 1923 the deputy director of the Museum of Antiquities in Istanbul, Tahsin Öz (1887-1973) was among these people who dominated the field of heritage preservation. He acted throughout his life as an influential figure in decision making processes of the conservation of Ottoman heritage. Öz was appointed as the director of Topkapi Palace Museum in 1928, right after 1924 when the already abandoned palace complex had become a museum with the approval of the parliament. Although much neglected and in need of urgent repair, the buildings of the palace were still witnessing the 19th century Ottoman style and taste. During his role which lasted in 1953, Tahsin Öz was responsible of the decisions for some rather ambitous restorations, which favored to erase the traces of one period and return back to a specific one. 
This paper aims to introduce Öz and his controversial approaches to the conservation of monuments, particularly in Topkapi Palace Museum with an overview of what had done and he had written, and focus simulteanously on the atmosphere of heritage preservation in Turkey until 1950s with different voices from intellectuals and professionals supporting or disagreeing his decisions.