An Innocent City: Archiving Everyday Istanbul

Presentation given at the Radical Archives conference held at NYU's Cantor Film Center (April 2014).

This paper was part of the "No Instructions for Assembly: Case Studies in Radical Archiving." More information on the session can be found here.

Situated in Cihangir, the Museum of Innocence archives and presents the everyday life of the city of Istanbul in the 1970s through the intimate moments of two people. The collection represents an intimate archive assembled by the character Kemal in honor of his love Füsun in Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence. Pamuk’s book and museum together present a manifesto for modest museums that archive and present the everyday lives of people often overlooked by national and state cultural institutions. The Innocent City will open at Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations in summer 2014. The project responds to Pamuk’s manifesto by moving from the intimate archive of the museum back into the public. Objects are selected from the Museum of Innocence and working with students, artists and local communities, Ian Alden Russell will depart from the Museum of Innocence to seek out the lives of these objects in the city of Istanbul today. Each selected object will present unique paths through the city and encounters (i.e. a tea cup might lead to a cold morning Bosporus crossing on a ferry or to a back alley tea garden and a intimate personal conversation). The lives of these objects are documented through photography, oral history, cartography, video and narrative writing – becoming an archive of stories of the city of Istanbul as it is today, as seen through intimate encounters with everyday objects from the Museum of Innocence’s collection.