Visitors to Istanbul are so overwhelmed with well-meaning but intimidatingly numerous hints and tips (go here! eat this!) that navigating the city’s many sights can be slightly overwhelming. But The Museum of Innocence whispers where others shout and yet it’s undoubtedly one of the most energising, intriguing museum experiences imaginable.
It was opened in April this year, the culmination of a 15-year labour of love by Nobel-prize winning author Orhan Pamuk who wrote a 2008 novel of the same name. In a quiet three-story house he has created what purports to be a physical tribute to the book’s main characters – Kemal and Füsun – and their extraordinary love story.
Arranged in 83 cabinets which represent each of the novel’s chapters, it’s a strange collection of trinkets, objects and other ephemera which engage visitors not only with the story’s protagonists but question gently the very nature of human relationships and emotional connections, and the unlikely ways in which they are manifested.
There’s a huge cabinet holding the butts of every cigarette Füsun was meant to have smoked during a six year period (categorised by date), photos of female victims from old newspaper reports with their eyes blacked out , there’s photos and food, combs and brooches, a shaving mirror, cinema tickets and several completely baffling pieces which can’t really be identified.
But the some total is a hugely moving experience, an insight into the private worlds lovers create which manage to be simultaneously completely personal and utterly universal. With its cool, dark rooms and deftly-maintained blurring of fictional boundaries, to visit the museum is to be manipulated in the most pleasant way possible.