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This new generation of collectors who held on to all film-related souve

nirs that passed their way through their friends who worked in the film
studios, cinemas, and foreign-film distributors obtained free film posters,
lobby photographs, and related paraphernalia. They kept these objects
without bothering to classify them, and their houses were soon filled up
with mountains of paper and curios; and though these homes resembled
in some ways ''trash houses'' and in other ways museum storerooms of
objects awaiting sorting and classification, they were, in fact, neither of
these things.
These houses manifested the hoarders' uncontrollable attachment to
things. I always enjoyed breathing in their scent of dust, mold, and agedness,
but gaining access to the houses was no easy task. These hoarders were ill
tempered, jealous, and despondent. For the sake of the objects they could
not give up, many had become alienated from their families; they spent most
of their time alone in dusty rooms that, as they filled up, came to resemble
storage lockers. I knew of many houses that were nothing more than repos-
. itories for books and newspapers in the 1960s and 1970s. The museum
making, archiving, and collecting traditions were not as common in Turkey
as they were in the West, and so those who lived in these strange hoarders'
homes, surrounded by chaotic jumbles of objects, soon grew wearyX>f explain
ing themselves and their objects, and began dolefully and self-deprecatingly
to call themselves ''sick''-borrowing the term from family, friends, and
especially their neighbors. These ''sick'' collectors were fully aware that
their attachment to objects stemmed from personal heartbreak and sorrow-

ful life,histories, but they remained honestly convinced of the importance of

their contribution to the very society that mocked them. One day Turkey too
would be w.althy, and museums, libraries, and archives would be set up, just
like in the West. And when that happened, everyone would realize the value

The power of objects to trigger memories lay at the heart of Kemal's motivation to be a collector. Clocks
and watches arranged tinder the balustrade vitri11es on the second floor carry this idea into the museum
he envisioned.
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Orha11 Pan1uk's desk as it looked vvl1ile l1e was writing Tl1e Museu111 of Innocence i11 Ista11bul.

of objects, and the pitied hoarders would become figures of admiration. For
now, they were biding their time. They were unable to sell their collections,
nor did they have the means to put together books (as was frequently done
later with collections of film props and posters). Their phones never rang.

And yet in their patient expectance inside their own houses (which were,
perhaps, the first examples of museums in private homes), I could observe
their dignity as eternally patient guardians of a comm11nity's sacred relics,
symbols, and banners. Still, unlike the little European museums that ele
vated my spirits, these homes-with thei1 papers, plaques, and books; their
worthless old radios, broken clocks, and coffee grinders-did not elicit any
sense of pride in me but filled me with shame instead. In these first Istanbul
house museums, I felt the hopelessness of a deprived people used to holding
on to everything in case it might turn out useful one day and who were
unable to throw anything away, even the most pointless things-old dresses
and shoes, empty bottles, buttons, newspapers, and even plastic bags.
The primitive house museums of these Istanbul hoarders often came to
my mind when, on my European travels in the fuid-1990s, my proclivities
led me to visit the small and neglected museums of metropolitan back
streets. All small museums evoked similar sentiments: of how at one point.,
in the past, some people had lived in a given street, neighborhood, or city;
and of how they had then departed, leaving behind old newspapers, masses
of paper and objects, pictures, photographs, and furniture. An amateur
collector, or one wealthy enough to set up a museum, who believed in the
value of the objects abandoned by the people who had left or who had
died, had then collected and conserved them. It was now up to new gen
erations to reconstruct the lives and histories of these people of the past
through the things that they had left behind.
These small European backstreet museums were just as empty of visi
tors as the overloaded homes of Istanbul's heartbroken and irritable
hoarders. The sight of a watchman dozing in a corner or the sound of par
quet squeaking under my feet would alert me to a museum's eerie silence.
Every now and then the noises of the city, the honking of car horns and the
screams and laughter of children playing ball, would filter through closed
windows covered by shutters (exactly like the ones in our museum) and
heavy curtains; and I would feel that there, in the midst of those objects,
was a different epoch from my own.
Between 2002 and 2005 I was in Istanbul, working on my novel briskly
and joyfully. When I entered one of <;ukurcuma's modest antique shops on
a winter's morning, the same emotions would take hold of me. Stepping
into a cold, dusty shop, I entered the past. In winter these shops would be
empty during the day, and every time I heard the outside noises of cars
honking and steamboats whistling, I realized that the reason I came to
museums and flea markets was to distance myself from the city's bustling,
rapid motion.
I kept seeking out more small museums in my travels. What I found
most enthralling was the way in which objects removed from tl\e kitchens,
bedrooms, and dinner tables where they had once been utilied would
come together to form a new texture, an unintentionally striking web of
relationships. I realized that when arranged with love and care, objects in
the museum-an odd photograph, a bottle opener, a picture of a boat, a
coffee cup, a postcard-could attain a much greater significance than they
had before. I had to put these strange photographs and used objects on my
desk and reimagine them as pieces belonging to the lives of real people.
The more I looked at the objects on my desk next to my notebook
rusty keys, candy boxes, pliers, and lighters-the more I felt as if they were
communicating with one another. Their ending up in this place after being
uprooted from the places they used to belong to and separated from the
people whose lives they were once part of-their loneliness, in a word
aroused in me the shamanic belief that objects too have spirits.
When I found a particular object in a shop and realized, with a sudden
burst of inspiration, that I might be able to weave it into my story, I would
immediately buy it; and on my way back to my studio, I would be happy.
Most of the time, though, I couldn't find anything that I felt would fit into
my novel in the making, and I left empty-handed. And sometimes I would
buy something simply because I found it pretty, interesting, or unusual.
Then I would place it on my desk, believing optimistically that its role in
Kemal and Fiisun's story would simply come to me unbidden.
Whenever this wonderful optimism came over me, the upsetting ques
tion that I was so frequently asked- "Why are you building this museum?" -
was pushed out of my mind. In these hopeful moments, when I managed
to convince myself that I knew the ultimate meaning of what I was doing
and what it was leading up to, I fantasized about the question I would ask
people if ever I finished my museum: Why has no one else ever thought of
something like this, of bringing together a novel and a museum in a single
story? The reasoning behind my museum could be applied to already pub
lished novels as well as to novels as yet unwritten. If someone made an
Anna Karenina Museum, finding a way to display the material world of the
novel, I'd come running. The art of painting is not well developed in
Islamic countries, and art galleries are not particularly popular in Asia . If

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A photograph of Kemal's father's secret girlfriend and a pair of earrings that he bought for her sit on Orhan
Pamuk's desk next to his hand-corrected typescript of The Museum ofInnocence, open to a page in chapter 21,
"My Father's Story: Pearl Earrings." The photograph was probably preserved by the flea market because there
is a boat behind, which makes it collectible.

only museums in these countries would try to tell people's stories not
through paintings but through objects that everyone knew and used, they
could touch the common humanity of their visitors.
While thinking of all these things during one of my optimistic phases, I
also dreamed of how one day, if I ever managed to open the Museum of
Innocence, I would also need to write a manifesto for museums. In this
modest manifesto, the question I would want to answer is not ''Why did
you build this museum?'' -indeed, that is a question I never want to answer
fully. What I want to do instead is to draw on my personal experience to
address the question of how new museums should be made.