Interspersed between the numerous mosques and tombs in Bursa, are several interesting museums, which I crammed into a single day. I am told that I cover an insane amount of ground when I travel...
The Turkish Islamic Museum of Arts is housed in a 15th century medersa (school for Islamic study) and fills several tiny rooms surrounding an open air courtyard. There is an extensive array of artifacts, each room seems to be themed with either the type of item (coins) or the items’ usage (prayer items). Previous experience has taught me to not anticipate a museum catalog in a non-existent gift shot at the end of the galleries, so I start photographing items ranging from ink cases, coffee roasters and coins, to turbans (one pictured above).
I am surprised to find porcelains dating between the 10th-13th centuries displayed in glass cases in the open air courtyard, including this 20 ounce mug.
Soon, I attract the attention of one of the security guards. I am writing notes, and in spite of the language barrier, I figure out that he’s asking me not to lean on the glass. I point to my camera to make sure photography is allowed. “Yes,” he nods. I continue to photograph everything, which continues to pique their curiosity. I take a last look to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and wave goodbye. As I am standing just outside the entrance with my nearly useless map, trying to figure out where next to go, the youngest guard runs up to me and presents me with an English language Bursa City Guide. “A gift,” he beams. I thank him profusely and sit down with it for the next 20 minutes. Small gestures make such a big difference...
Next up is the Cultural Museum, previously a dervish lodge and then a library, it now houses a collection of costumes and textiles. I wander around, completely alone, no guards or attendants in sight. Sunlight streams through the windows and reflects off the cases, which makes photography difficult. I also wonder about UV damage, especially to the metallic thread embroideries.
Shown here is a women’s belt buckle worked in silver. There were also silver bridal headdresses and a pair of chopines that were worn in Turkish baths (hamam). There are also embroideries in silver-work and petit point, and a type of loom beater that I would become personally acquainted with when I visited Morocco a few years later.
I tour the 17th century Ottoman House Museum, believed to be the birthplace of Sultan Mehmed. I noted the double decker exterior stairway and unusual the center-pivot windows. The “Receiving Room for Gentlemen Guests” featured both a fireplace and a brazier, and a ceiling done in marquetry. There was a built in bookcase that was similar to one I saw at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
I find the Uluumay Ottoman Costume and Jewelry Museum just minutes before it is scheduled to close. The curator gives me a personal tour of room after room of costumes, textiles, jewelry and other artifacts that he has been collecting for the past 50 years. It is housed in an old Ottoman school, only large enough to exhibit a quarter of his collection. Completely accessorized mannequins of folk costumes from all over Central Asia and the Balkans are displayed on turntables in glassed off corners of each room. Photography is not allowed, and of course nothing has been cataloged. But the presentation is exquisite and had I had more time, I would have asked to sit and sketch things. The Hurriyet published an article about this museum the year after I was there.
Visit my travel blog for additional photos of my Museum Day in Bursa.
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Heather Daveno is from Seattle, Washington, where she works as an office manager by day
and a self taught hatmaker by night. She spent most of her pandemic lockdown in 2020-2021 creating 800 masks for the Masks4Millions project.
In a normal year, her travels inspire her hats, which she handcrafts from reclaimed textiles and found objects. You can find her hats and masks for sale at August Phoenix Hats. She is currently reissuing her original journals as “Director’s Cuts” with expanded text and previously unpublished photos, which you can read for free at Daveno Travels.