Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk has opened a museum displaying artifacts in parallel with his novel Museum of Innocence, which tells a love story lasting three decades. The actual Museum of Innocence in Istanbul offers visitors a trip through the city’s past as well as illuminating Pamuk’s work. In this article, Deren Erelçin looks at how Pamuk has palpably created the world within the novel.
Orhan Pamuk’s novel Museum of Innocence is written from the perspective of Kemal, a man who is so obsessively in love with a woman called Füsun that he starts creating a museum for her belongings. The idea of an actual museum was in Pamuk’s mind right from the outset of writing his novel. In fact, he started collecting objects beforehand and let them inspire him throughout the writing process. He was planning to open the museum and publish the book at the same time. However, the curation of the museum took the author longer than originally anticipated.
Situated in an old three-storey building in Çukurcuma which was built in 1897, the museum exhibits a variety of artefacts including clothes, toys, utensils, bus and cinema tickets, bankbooks, paintings, photographs, and various other items from the time in which the novel is set. These objects are curated chronologically according to the chapters of the book and are displayed in 83 showcases. An installation of 4213 cigarettes that Füsun has smoked is the first thing that welcomes visitor. One of the showcases runs a black-and-white soda pop advertisement made by two famous contemporary advertisers, Serdar Erener and Sinan Çetin, as a gift to Pamuk.
The museum also offers audio installations which evoke the spirit of an older Istanbul through nostalgic voice recordings. Each showcase reflects a period from the past life of Istanbul between 1950 and 2000, allowing visitors to discover forgotten details about that period. In the attic, visitors encounter the room from the novel where Kemal wrote his account of his obsessive love for Füsun. The room also features the manuscript for the novel, unpublished chapters, Pamuk’s drafts and notes, as well as designs that he made for the museum.
Aside from concretizing the story of Kemal and Füsun, the museum also constitutes a city archive for Istanbul. Entry tickets for the museum are printed on the last pages of the novel, and readers have been waiting impatiently to use them since the book was published.