Orhan Pamuk’s unique artwork, “The Museum of Innocence”

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You may have planned your Istanbul trip a long time ago and perhaps you already have a long list of historical places to cover. But some friendly advice, don't forget to add “The Museum of Innocence“ to your program.

the museum of innocence

“The Museum of Innocence” has a unique foundation, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, developed this idea of writing the novel and building up the museum in parallel. Therefore, the museum is both a realization of the novel's 83 chapters to life by showing objects and a summary of Istanbul life in the second half of the 20th century.

Orhan Pamuk at Museum of Innocence

Orhan Pamuk is a world-renowned Turkish writer and his books have sold over eleven million copies in sixty languages. Some of his novels are The White Castle, The Black Book, The New Life, My Name Is Red and Snow. Pamuk purchased the museum building in 1999 and spent a lot of his time collecting objects from the past that he saw and liked in junk dealer shops and friend’s homes. Sometimes, he found an interesting object that would inspire a new story in the novel. It was through this process he began to write The Museum of Innocence. The biggest object in the museum is the building itself.

The museum invites all history and literature lovers to its charming red building located in Çukurcuma, the area that is famous for antique shops. If you visit the museum after reading the novel, it becomes quiet impressing to see the objects mentioned in the novel and you start to believe that everything in the novel was real. Orhan Pamuk hasn’t missed any detail. Even 4,213 cigarette butts are presented on the entrance with special notes, as readers of the book will understand.

cigarette buds, museum of innocence in istanbul

The tour starts with Kemal, the protagonist’s sentence, "Let everyone know that I have lived a happy life". During your visit to the museum, you see displays containing elements that continue to remind you of Kemal’s obsessed love to his object, Füsun. Kemal believes that life should be seen as intense moments, reminded by each object. And life becomes joyful when spent with loved ones.

The greatest surprise comes up on the loft where you see Pamuk’s notebooks full of his handwriting of the novel and drawings of the museum. Just across the notes, there lies the bed of Kemal where Pamuk mentioned in the novel as “the place where Kemal told his story for eight years”. Here you form a dilemma. Did Kemal really live or is Pamuk telling tales?

The Museum of Innocence is the first example in history where the “things” mentioned in the novel are on display. There are about 2,000 objects reflecting old Istanbul.

museum of innocence, istanbul, bedroom

Orhan Pamuk has visited a lot of museums in the world and especially loved the small ones in the narrow streets. He tried to find and create the same sincere atmosphere in his museum. I can proudly say I feel he succeeded.


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Seda Aksoy Evren •Istanbul, Turkey

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