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Objects of Nature and Scientific Knowledge on the Move: The Robert College Natural History Museum in Istanbul

Nurçin İleri

Abstract

This article focuses on the history of the Robert College’s Natural History Museum composed of geological, zoological, and botanical specimens from the 1860s to the 1940s. It is an attempt to re-establish the lost connections -the origins, past uses, and actors- about the college museum which does not physically exist today and whose scientific collections and archival sources have been scattered across different institutions and cities. Housing natural objects of botany, zoology and geology that spanned geological eras, political entities, nations, and cultures, from all over the world including Asia Minor, China, Brazil, France, etc., the college museum revealed an interactive network in scientific knowledge production and expertise transfer. The experiences of the museum’s scientific actors, varying from American educators to Ottoman-Armenian botanist, from a Russian-French biologist to a Hungarian entomologist, revealed the entangled history of knowledge production and expertise transfer and challenged the premise of the “centre” producing science and the “periphery” embracing and consuming it or the latter’s reliance on the former. Not only scientific actors but also non-scientific actors such as British diplomats or Istanbul Levantine tradespeople engaged with the college museum’s expansion. Moreover, as a significant work of art and labour, this museum attracted and impressed many local and international visitors/tourists. It displayed the unique properties of specimens removing them from the realm of the curious and served as a scientific and cultural venue where local and global natural objects and knowledge, as well as people interacted.

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I am extremely grateful to my colleagues Aylin de Tapia, Ebru Aykut, Gönenç Göçmengil, Onur İnal, Philippe Bourmaud and two anonymous referees who enriched this article with their constructive and valuable questions and comments.

  • 1 Ferdinand von Hochstetter noted that the mining council had six members. The council was chaired by (...)
  • 2 Hochstetter carried out his exploratory inspection from Istanbul to Edirne, Plovdiv, and Nis from J (...)

1In the summer of 1869, the German-Austrian geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter went on a trip from Istanbul to Belgrad to conduct geological exploration and prepare a map that would facilitate the expansion of the Ottoman railway network in the Balkans. Given his need to obtain more information about the mining conditions in this under-researched region, he attended one of the meetings of a council formed by the Mining and Metallurgy Section of the Ottoman Ministry of Public Works in Istanbul.1 His expectations were however dashed since he could find neither mine maps nor collections of any kind despite attending the meeting. The only two collections of mineralogical or geological content that he was able to find in Istanbul were “the collection of Devonian fossils and igneous rocks of the Bosporus,” which was supervised by Dr. Carl Eduard Hammerschmidt (1800-1874), known also as Abdullah Bey, who was an Austrian mineralogist, entomologist, and physician in the Imperial School of Medicine, and “an excellently equipped mineralogical and geological school collection” housed in Robert College at Bebek and undertaken by John Alsop Paine (1840-1912), a Presbyterian minister and professor of natural sciences (Hochstetter 1870: 367).2

  • 3 Robert College began its institutional life in Istanbul in 1863, with financing by Christopher R. R (...)

2This article focuses on the latter, Robert College’s scientific collections composed of geological, zoological, and botanical specimens, which later became a professional museum as the collections grew through the exchange, donation, and purchase of materials and specimens with contributions from both scientific and non-scientific actors.3 While the first part in the article presents a brief history of the rise of the natural history museums in the Ottoman Empire, the second part narrates the expansion of the Robert College Natural History Museum, whose seeds were sown around the 1860s. Benefiting from the reports of the college presidents, it explores the processes of collection, acquisition, and classification of the museum collections and investigates the ways the college teachers and students, as well as political and commercial networks, contributed to the museum. As the scientific networks were quite essential in knowledge production and expertise transfer in natural sciences, the third part focuses on the traveling scientists and objects of nature and tries to understand how local/regional knowledge about nature shaped the universal scientific language and was in turn shaped by it. The fourth and last part, discussing the museum’s visitors’ book, depicts the museum’s display environment and examines the main characteristics of the local and international visitors, as well as the impact the museum collections had on them.

3In so doing, this article aims to locate the Robert College Natural History Museum in both local and global circles of natural history and natural sciences. As Semih Çelik points out, a large portion of the literature on the scientific knowledge production, dissemination, and education in the Ottoman Empire contends that the scientific institutions in the Ottoman domain mainly utilised the methods and curriculum of the Western institutions (Çelik 2020). Focusing on the exchange network of the first natural history museum and botanical garden founded in the Ottoman Empire around the 1830s, Çelik challenges this assertion, which posits that scientific knowledge and its institutions were a dependency, appropriation, or direct transfer from the centre to the periphery. He argues that rather than fitting “a one-way diffusion model,” the institutionalization of the Ottoman scientific enterprise went parallel with the developments in Europe. The Ottoman scientific knowledge production in natural sciences was a collaborative work of local, European, and non-European networks that interacted with each other (Çelik 2020: 85).

4Building on Çelik’s pioneering work, I argue that the Robert College Natural History Museum in Istanbul reflected many diverse collecting practices and multilateral contacts among American educators and students; scientific and non-scientific actors, such as diplomats and merchants; and domestic and international tourists. The college museum environment was a productive scientific and cultural space to explore and understand how scientific knowledge was constructed, reproduced, and disseminated through the interaction of transregional human and non-human actors.

Figure 1. Dr. Bertram V. D. Post and Angele Yemenidjian in the Robert College Natural History Museum, Dr. Post shows the congor eel presented to the college by Prof. Tubini in the academic year of 1925 and 1926.

Courtesy of Columbia University Robert College Rare Collections (CU-RBML) and Bogazici Archives and Documentation Center (BUADC)

  • 4 The original copies of Robert College Records are located at Columbia University. Thanks to the agr (...)

5My journey in tracing the history of the college museum started when I noticed a photograph of the inner part of the museum picturing a woman and a man who were posing before some zoological specimens (See Figure I). I came across this photograph in 2015 while working on Robert College Records at Boğaziçi University Archives and Documentation Center.4 My initial question was “did Robert College have a natural history museum?” Then others followed. Who were these people posing in such a serious manner with the man looking directly at the camera holding the congor eel and the woman taking notes on the glass cabinet? Where was this museum located? How were these zoological samples acquired? Were there any other scientific collections that the museum possessed? How were the specimens selected and how did they arrive at the museum? Did the college have financial, bureaucratic, or technical difficulties in acquiring items? Who contributed the formation of the museum collections and how? Was the museum publicly open? While I did not find answers to all of these questions, I found answers for some. This article is an attempt to re-establish the lost connections between the college museum, which does not physically exist today, and the museum’s scientific collections and archival sources that have been scattered across different institutions and cities. By utilizing the photographs, annual reports prepared by the college presidents and teachers, travel accounts, memoirs, contemporary journals, and museum’s visitors’ book, the article unearths the origins, past uses, and actors of the college museum that are almost all forgotten today.

The Rise of Natural History Museums in the Ottoman Empire

6A general revival of interest in science during the Renaissance and early modern period brought about a widespread taste for collecting natural objects of scientific worth. The desirous elite, composed of royals, wealthy merchants, or naturalists, added the customary archaeological relics, artistic beauties, and technologies of the past from various geographies into their private collections. Along with the spirit of inquiry, the adoption of a new attitude towards nature as a collectible entity made natural curiosities an essential part of private collections. The collectors were even eager to collaborate with each other. As the passion for the collections increased, the number and significance of the scientific artifacts and memorabilia did as well. Among them, the collection of natural curiosities, bringing together rocks and minerals, fossils, anatomical and botanical specimens, and stuffed animals from all over the world, constituted the prototypes of natural history museums (Farrington 1915; Bedini 1965: 7; Findlen 1996).

7The attitude towards nature as a collectible entity in the 16th and 17th centuries gave way to a more organised and institutionalised European science and scientific understanding in the 18th century (McClellan 2003: 87). Instead of desirous aristocrats, the governments of powerful states, directly or through scientific or educational institutions, started to finance institutions of nature, including observatories, botanical gardens, and natural history museums. Different from the fragmented collections representing the cabinets of curiosities in earlier centuries, objects of nature became subject to a much more systematic description and classification in the 18th century requiring expert knowledge (Farber 1982: 150).

8By the 19th century, a distinct form of organised science involved specialised societies, disciplinary journals, and a revived university system. Moreover, natural history museums, open only to a certain scientific community earlier, became permanent and public in many cities, including Paris, Berlin, and Leiden in the 19th century. This proliferation of public museums along with the revolution in publishing trade popularized natural sciences and nurtured the appetite for natural history (Farber 1982: 147-150). Thus, on the one hand, the natural history museums functioned as the places where scientific and philosophical development resonated. On the other, they contained many specimens that exemplified the expansionist enthusiasm of the colonial empires and contributed to the “imperial fantasy” that lauded transnational domination (Richards 1993; Çelik 2020). Many samples of plants, animals, and minerals were sent from the natural history museums established in the colonies to the metropoles. These samples played a vital role in understanding and managing the regions that were colonised and making use of these places’ biota and natural resources for medicinal and industrial purposes. (Davis 2011; McClellan 2003; Patiniotis, Gavroglu 2012).

  • 5 For detailed information about the naturalists and botanists who visited the Ottoman Empire in diff (...)

9The richness of the flora and fauna in the Ottoman Empire was particularly fascinating as it both fostered imperial fantasies of the European empires and appealed to the Ottoman Empire’s own imperial fantasies in the various geographies it conquered. The Ottoman lands, seen as a hub for the genetic heritage of various plants, played a crucial role in the curiosity of Western European travellers, naturalists, and botanists as early as the 16th century.5 Many who visited these lands acquired natural objects and transferred them to their financial patrons for commercial and scientific reasons (Baytop 2004; Sakınç 2013). As the medicinal and commercial plant market developed, the interest specifically in botanical specimens found in Ottoman lands became particularly important since the range of species and varieties of plants in the area was quite staggering compared with the rather homogeneous vegetations in large swaths of land in Northern Europe or the main regions of the US. This interest remained not limited to the botanical specimens, as a few European scientists prepared geological maps of the places they visited and collected geological samples, which they described and classified or transferred them to European scientific societies and institutions to do so. (Göçmengil, Gülmez 2021; Şengör 2009-10: 123-4).

  • 6 This interest of the Ottoman elite in objects of nature not only derived from economic and practica (...)

10The Ottoman flora and fauna not only attracted Western European interest. As one of the greatest empires in the early modern period, the military and political success of the empire in establishing control over diverse ethnicities, religions, and cultures went hand in hand with the empire’s ability to manage the dynamics among the economic, social, and natural lives both in the old and newly conquered places (İnal, Köse 2019: 4). The cultural engagement with floriculture was popular among the Ottoman elite circles in the early modern period (Kahraman 2015) and the crossbreeding and taxonomy of flowers was converted into a professionalized task for commercial purposes as early as the 18th century (Hamadeh 2007; Salzman 1999). However, as Çelik points out, “acclimatization, crossbreeding, and transfer of fauna and flora more generally became a more systematic scientific and economic concern at the beginning of the nineteenth century.” (2020: 88). The engagement with nature was significant not only for scientific or economic activities but also for the survival of the populations. As Onur İnal and Yavuz Köse aptly put it, the obligation to cope with “disturbances, and natural and man-induced disasters such as earthquakes, floods, fires, droughts, famines, food shortages, locust attacks, epidemics and epizootics” made the Ottomans delve into technological and cultural endeavours to interact with or control different types of environments (İnal, Köse 2019: 1). At the time, the rise in attempts to comprehend nature from a “scientific” standpoint made the production and circulation of knowledge about the Ottoman biota in military, medical or educational institutions almost inevitable.6 The foundation of natural history museums in the 19th century Ottoman Empire coincided with this shift.

11In Science among Ottomans, Shefer-Mossensohn claims that “Ottoman scientific activity occurred in a multilayered, eclectic, and practical manner.” (2015: 164). Not only in the 19th century but also in previous centuries, scientific knowledge production and transfer depended on numerous human and non-human agents. However, the development of transportation and communication technology during the Industrial Revolution accelerated the interaction between different scientific communities and facilitated the travel of scientists, scientific expertise, and knowledge. In a colonial and imperial context and in pursuit of positivist and materialist ideas, when people became aware of different geographies and species, they made efforts to understand biodiversity in nature. Although not as stand-alone courses, debates on botany, zoology, and geology as a part of the natural sciences course, had already started in the first half of the 19th century within the framework of medical education in the Ottoman Empire (İshakoğlu 1998). At the time, as Çelik also points out, the natural history books were translated from European languages into Ottoman Turkish and the Ottoman diplomats who visited European natural history museums and botanical gardens wrote about their experiences (2020: 88-89).

12The theory of evolution and the controversial debates around it that shook the second half of the 19th century played an effective role in helping to understand biodiversity in nature. The Ottoman intellectuals in their writings critically debated ideas about evolution and the creation of the Earth by important naturalists such as Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, and Eduart Hartmann (Alkan 2009; Göçmengil 2021: 382). These public debates also had an impact on the educational and medical institutions, which were motivated to give more prominence to natural sciences. In this context, collecting, classifying, preserving, and displaying natural samples by using scientific methods turned out to be quite significant to back up science courses particularly in the fields of “medicine, pharmacy, zoology, geology and biology” (Göçmengil 2021: 375).

  • 7 This text published in Gazette Medical d’Orient in 1872 was edited and translated into Turkish by F (...)

13The first natural history museum (numunehane) in the Ottoman Empire was founded in the Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-yi Şahane (Imperial School of Medicine) in Galatasaray, Istanbul, in the late 1830s. Along with a botanical garden, the museum had a collection of geological, zoological, and teratological samples (Aykut 2019; Çelik 2019). Many instruments and machines for adjunct teaching or research were purchased from European cities, such as Paris, London, and Vienna by the order of Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861) (Mac Farlane 1855: 91-92). Revealing imperial diligence in acquiring the latest scientific and technological gear to develop the medical school, this museum suggests that the faculty and students at school were strict followers and participants of recent scientific and technological developments of international academia. This earnest effort did not last long, though. In 1848, large parts of the natural history museum and botanical garden were devastated by a fire. According to the report prepared by Abdullah Bey in 1872, which listed the samples that survived after the 1848 fire, this first natural history museum contained 44 samples of mounted mammals, 32 samples of mounted birds, 500 samples of mammal and bird flesh to be mounted, 54 samples of fish either mounted or protected in alcohol, 38 samples of reptiles, 1,600 samples of shellfish, 93 samples of polyps, 1 spider, 276 samples of fossils, about 500 samples of minerals and rocks, 66 crystallographic wood models and 8 physiological models (Abdullah Bey 1872a: 33-34).7 Çelik claims that these samples did represent only a part of the whole collection, most of the other samples like botanical specimens must have perished during the fire (Çelik 2020: 91).

  • 8 Unfortunately, with the sudden death of Abdullah Bey in 1874 during geological surveys for a new ra (...)

14Due to this unfortunate fire perhaps, a later museum, which was established in the Imperial School of Medicine in the late 1860s, was actually mistakenly referred to as the first natural history museum in Istanbul. The crucial figure cultivating this new natural history museum was Abdullah Bey. Through his connections with the scientific intelligentsia in Vienna, which ran significant scientific communities and a well-organised natural history museum, Abdullah Bey provided materials and specimens for the expansion of the museum’s mineralogy, geology, botanical, and anatomy sections and created the library on natural history and medicine (Abdullah Bey 1872a; Günergun 2010).8

15Abdullah Bey believed that studying natural history or science would remain superficial without scientific collections or well-organised museums supported by governments and associations and visited by both the elites and laypeople (Abdullah Bey 1872a). For this reason, the foundation of an imperial natural history museum signified the Ottoman government’s civilizational aspiration to cultivate science and demonstrated a willingness to come closer to the Western European nations.

  • 9 The scientific studies to revitalize the natural history collections in Saint-Joseph High School st (...)

16The imperial objective in having a natural history museum aligned with some institutional and individual efforts of state schools (Darüşşafaka, Vefa, Cağaloğlu, etc.), schools of ethno-religious communities (Fener Greek or Zoğrafyan), and foreign institutions (Robert College or Lycée Français Privé Saint-Joseph d’Istanbul, etc.) in Istanbul (Akyıldırım 2006: 13). These schools mainly utilised natural objects to assist in teaching natural science courses in their curriculums. For instance, the teachers of the Saint-Joseph d’Istanbul (1870), used to display botanical, zoological, and mineralogical specimens for educational purposes in different parts of the school. These collections were brought together in a museum environment around 1905 and 1906. Among the teachers, Frère Jean Marius Reynaud played a crucial role in the expansion of the school’s museum. He sent local specimens to dealers in Berlin and Vienna and expected to receive new specimens from these dealers in return (Michel 2002: 116-117; Göçmengil 2021: 380). During this period, thanks to permission from the Ottoman Sultan, the Saint-Joseph Natural History Museum was enriched by zoological specimens (mainly with birds and fish) from the Bosporus area. The botanical specimens were mainly gathered by Frères Jean Marius Reynaud, Pasteur Luis, and Idinaël Simon during the field excursions of both sides of the Bosporus but especially from the Kadıköy area (Sakınç 2013).9

  • 10 The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), or “American Board,” was a Boston (...)
  • 11 Located outside of Istanbul, the natural history museum in Merzifon attracted the attention of many (...)

17Towards the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) had schools in some Anatolian cities.10 The ABCFM colleges located in Merzifon, Aintab, and Tarsus also had natural history museums of various scales (Hovhannisyan 2016; Göçmengil 2019). These schools mainly utilised natural objects from the museum’ varied scientific collections to assist natural science courses of their curriculum. Among these schools, was the Merzifon Anatolia College, which was founded first as a theological seminary and then transformed into a boarding school with Armenian and Greek students from the local provinces of the empire. While American missionaries taught the courses in the early years of the college, gradually Armenian and Greek alumni became a part of the college’s faculty after they completed their studies in American and European universities (Tracy 1904: 25-26; Maksudyan 2013). The appointment of Johannes “John” Jakob Manissadjian (Ohannes Agop Manisacıyan) to the faculty of Anatolia College in 1890 played a crucial role in transforming the college president Charles C. Tracy’s amateur pursuit of collecting objects of nature into a professional one (Hovhannisyan 2016). Manissadjian made regional excursions and empirical observations and collected geological and botanical data with his students in the unexplored vicinity of Merzifon. As of 1914, the museum collection included 7,000 plant and animal samples, 2,500 insects and butterflies, 1,100 fossils, 900 minerals and rocks, 50 mollusks (softly) and 70 birds, 40 mammals, and large animal samples (McGrew 2015, 588).11

18Although coming from different intellectual traditions, the Ottoman, French, and American actors in the Empire converged in similar practices and curiosities with respect to instruction of natural sciences and developing natural history museums. On a local scale, the implementation of the first comprehensive regulation titled Statute on General Education (Maarif-i Umumiye Nizamnamesi) in 1869, with an emphasis on the necessity of teaching positive sciences, encouraged Ottoman state and foreign schools established in the empire to undertake scientific instruction (Somel 2010: 215 and 335). On a global scale, in a transforming world where people, capital, objects, and knowledge has been circulating, the proliferation of public natural history museums in major cities of the world had an impact on the rising curiosity for scientific collections and the foundation of natural history museums in the Ottoman Empire. Among all the educational institutions of the empire that owned scientific collections or natural history museums as a result of the global trend emphasizing the importance of such collections, this article puts the Robert College Natural History Museum at its core.

The Robert College Natural History Museum and Its Scientific Collections

19In January 1867, as part of the fourth year opening announcement for Robert College published in Levant Herald, Cyrus Hamlin, the first principal of the college, introduced a multi-disciplinary curriculum to attract students’ and families’ attention. The curriculum included courses ranging from Mathematics to History, Moral Philosophy to International Law. Along with education in various languages, Hamlin promised that the college would not neglect anything that might contribute to “a sound, thorough Christian education”. The first official record about a cabinet of scientific collections in the college appeared in this same announcement. According to this announcement, “the college was furnished with fine cabinets of Minerals and Geological specimens, and with a complete apparatus for the study of chemistry and other branches of Natural Science” (Hamlin 1867: 4).

20Cyrus Hamlin’s ideas played a decisive role in shaping the content of college education. While the American Board of Trustees brought missionary aspects and religious education forward and saw the college mission as the training of local Protestant servants, Hamlin envisaged the college as an educational institution in which the students could develop themselves in theoretical and practical terms not only in religion but also in languages, humanities, and positive sciences. To Hamlin, as self-sufficient, virtuous, and open-minded people, the college students should later contribute to the developments of their local communities in line with the recent modernization efforts of the Ottoman Empire (Hamlin 1893). Prioritising secular education and adopting a curriculum that included technical and scientific courses deemed more appropriate for the zeitgeist of the 19th century, the college gained in a short while an esteemed reputation not only among Christian communities but other religious groups as well (Greenwood 2003; Gates 1940; Gürtunca 2017: 227). Though the college had only four students in 1863, this number reached 311 by the end of the century. The ethnic and religious background of the students varied, and the college included “Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Turks, English and Americans, Israelites, Austrian and French, Georgian and Assyrian, and Levantine” (Report of the President 1901: 8).

21The life science courses in the college covered Natural Sciences and Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology. The main goal of this scientific instruction was to help students gain the ability to observe, distinguish, discover, and show interest in natural objects surrounding them, which gradually became the linchpin of the museum housed at the college (Report of the President 1896-1897: 13-15; Board of the Trustees 1921: 30). The significance given to the natural sciences may seem contradictory for a school that has adopted Protestant values. However, as Marwa Elshakry points out, rather than seeing these courses as a threat to Christianity, the missionary educators in the Middle East “believed that such an education would aid students on the path to God by generating an appreciation for God’s divine will and order, as well as to excite the sense of religious awe and wonder so central to the spirit of evangelical thought.” (Elshakry 2007: 183). In that sense, the efforts to comprehend, name, and classify the world’s biological diversity attracted great attention in the religious realm and went parallel with the debates on the creation of Earth. In Robert College as well, the instructors exerted tremendous effort in introducing life sciences courses as well as giving room for debates on religion and its practice.

22There are no definite records to say when, why, or how the college museum started. However, various accounts in papers, journals, and memoirs addressed the scientific collections of the college in its earlier years between 1863 and 1871 while the college was still located at Bebek Seminary. A display of fossils, rocks and minerals was transported to Hamlin Hall in 1871. Upon the erection of Albert Long Hall in 1892, the science laboratories as well as the museum collections were moved into this new building. In the early 1900s, the museum collections were transferred to the upper floor of Washburn Hall named after the second principal of the college, George Washburn. This new location housed these collections for almost 60 years.

Figure 2. Washburn Hall, The Natural History Museum was located on the top floor.

Courtesy of (CU-RBML) and (BUADC)

23The college president reports demonstrate that the individual efforts and personal connections of college teachers such as John Alsop Paine, a professor of natural sciences; William Trowbridge Merrifield Forbes, biology teacher at the college; William T. Ormiston, a professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology; Bernard Anthony Tubini, a professor of electrical engineering; and Karl Terzaghi, a professor of civil engineering were quite decisive in enhancing the Robert College scientific collections. Having trained either in European or American universities, these teachers shared their knowledge and skills with the college students. Among these teachers, the college physician and the professor of Biology and Physical Culture, Bertram Van Dyck Post (1871-1960), who joined the faculty in the 1904-1905 academic year, and his assistant Angele Yemenidjian (?-1959) played an important role in transforming the scientific collections into a professional museum in the early years of the 20th century.

  • 12 George E. Post was one of the leading figures in the organization and development of the Medical Sc (...)
  • 13 This text, titled “My Background, Health, and Education,” written by Bertram V. D. Post’s daughter (...)

24Born in Syria, Bertram V. D. Post received his education in American and French schools there. After graduating from Lawrenceville School at New Jersey where he earned a degree in Classics, he returned to Beirut. There, he accompanied his father, George E. Post (1838-1909), on botanical expeditions and became interested in the study of botany. He subsequently took up the study of medicine at Beirut University under his father’s direction.12 He was offered the position of a resident physician at Robert College in Istanbul in 1904, he accepted the position and worked as the college physician and biology teacher and then curator of the natural history museum until his retirement in 1940.13 After his retirement, he moved to Switzerland with his second wife Anne Post, a botanical painter. He died at the age of 88 in Geneva, Switzerland in 1960 (Macneal 1960: 60-61).

25Angele Yemenidjian was the assistant to the curator of the Robert College Natural History Museum from 1916 on. After she graduated from the American Academy for Girls at Adapazarı, a town close to Istanbul, she joined Robert College. Yemenidjian had worked towards the classification, cataloguing and taxidermy in the museum and carried out the role as a guide for the museum visitors for more than forty years. Even though she became a key figure in college museum’s maintenance, she remained as a modest person who carried on her work from year to year with little notice and no publicity (Report to the Trustees 1955: 7; Alumni Bulletin 1959).

Figure 3. Angele Yemenidjian while preparing plant species for the Herbarium Collection (no date).

Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC

  • 14 “Museum Catalog as it came from Merzifon, 1939,” SALT Research, American Board of Commissioners for (...)

26Unlike the catalogue of the Merzifon Anatolia College Natural History Museum prepared by Manissadjian, including information about the scientific properties, provenance, acquisition, and preservation process of the specimen, a detailed catalogue of the scientific collections in the Robert College Natural History Museum does not exist or has not been revealed yet.14 Thanks to the annual reports and catalogues prepared by the college presidents and teachers, though, it is possible to trace the content of the scientific collections in the college museum. The reports provide quantitative data about the objects owned by the museum, sometimes by recounting the circumstances under which an object entered and was processed in the museum.

  • 15 One of the sources that inspired me in this study was an old Robert College student, Esref Sakarya’ (...)

27As these reports reveal, the museum had a large and well-assorted cabinet of geology and mineralogy, including a complete collection of minerals and fossils found in Istanbul and its environs, an ornithological cabinet that contained around 700 specimens of the birds of Turkey in 1879, and a collection containing around 100 mounted specimens of fishes from the Bosporus in 1893 (Alumni Bulletin 1962 vol. 1: 6; Sakarya 1982: 3).15 Even though the college administration spent little money on them, the natural history collections, particularly the biological collections, continued to grow (Report of the President 1895-1896: 10). Over time, the collections had been enhanced by collecting, exchanging, donating, and purchasing.

  • 16 In later years, Dr. Post thought that Miss Yemenidjian’s technique of the preparation of skeletons (...)

28Despite the existence of valuable scientific collections, though, there was a lack of scientists and scientific methods. For instance, there was not a taxidermist employed in the museum. Most probably, Miss Yemenijian was taking care of the specimens under Post’s direction, or the specimens were coming to the museum already stuffed.16 Sometimes, the students also worked to properly collect, dissect, and mount specimens. After excursions, they would work in their laboratories till dark (Report of the President 1906-1907: 11; Report of the President 1911-1912: 46-47). However, as the collection grew, the lack of a first-class taxidermist to procure and mount the birds and mammals constituted a big problem.

  • 17 No detailed information was found about Mr. Jakisch.

29At the end of 1908, a German taxidermist Mr. Jakisch from Bulgaria was employed to overhaul the collection of birds, fishes, and insects.17 During that year, “1 amphibian, 7 reptiles, 7 birds (among them a handsome Ibis and rare Vulture) 2 mammals and an Angel Shark with its brood of 6 young” have been stuffed and added to the museum. Post was thinking that the Angel Shark, a “flat, grotesque-looking fish nearly 4 feet long, surrounded by her brood,” lying on a large flat-sanded board was creating an excellent effect in the museum. This specimen was seen “in the Galata fish market with its young just on the point of emerging” and was purchased for the museum (Report of the President 1908-1909: 15).

30Besides purchasing the specimens, the gifts/donations of the local or international non-scientific actors such as US or British diplomats or Levantine tradespeople in Istanbul played a role in the formation of the college museum. In the academic year of 1911 and 1912, along with a few birds and mammals, a small collection of insects from Mount Lebanon had been added to the entomological collection of the museum. Yet the most interesting species of the year were an otter, captured near the village of Boyadjikeuy on the Bosporus and a superb specimen of a wild boar, which was shot in the open about 25 miles northeast of Alem Dağı. They were presented to the college by Mr. Heizer (secretary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Istanbul) and Dr. Rhoades and Ensign Wilcox (warrant officers of the US) (Report of the President 1909-1910: 31).

31The following year, with the courtesy of the British Council, Telford Waugh, a British diplomat in Istanbul, made some arrangements to exchange Turkish butterflies for those of Javanese origin, particularly a hundred exquisite Javanese tropical species of butterflies. Moreover, Arthur Baker, one of the members of the Baker Family who owned commercial enterprises in Istanbul, presented the college with a hippopotamus skull, an elephant’s fossilised molar-tooth, and a small collection of shells. Oscar Gunkel, an individual member of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Levant, also presented the skin of a steinbock (alpine goat) to the college. Along with these, various plant specimens collected the nearby Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria, Konia, and Lake Van became part of the museum (Report of the President 1911-1912: 47-48; Report of the President, 1912-1913, 30).

32Even though the conditions of the First World War were not too favourable for the collection of new specimens, the museum continued to grow during the war years. Both the students’ efforts and the political and commercial networks of the college teachers played a vital role in this growth. Although the number varied, Robert College always hosted students from different cities, countries, and geographies. Turning this into an advantage, the college administration proposed to employ needy students of proven aptitude for the work in making collections of the insects, birds, and plants found in their respective localities of the country. They would receive their travelling expenses and an allowance for food and lodging and be paid for the specimens they obtained. This way, the college administration was hoping to enrich the museum and to help students to earn money during their vacations (Report of the President 1918-1919: 13).

  • 18 Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963), an Austrian civil engineer, accepted a position in the Imperial School o (...)

33Upon the death of Georges V. Aznavour, an eminent naturalist and a friend of Dr. Post, in 1920, his rich herbarium collection was added to the museum, and the Istanbul section of Aznavour herbarium alone contained over 11,000 sheets of valuable specimens. Along with zoology and herbarium collections, the mineral collection made by F. M. Corpi, the sanitary inspector for the Turkish Government, during his travels in Asia Minor, had been purchased by Dr. Post and presented to the College. The collection was arranged by Karl Terzaghi, the professor of civil engineering at Robert College then.18 Besides specimens from Asia Minor, the collection contained some samples from the Ural Mountains in Russia and Auvergne in France. In addition to the Corpi Collection, Terzaghi ordered a dozen or more rock-forming minerals from Krantz in Bonn and placed them in the college museum (President Report of 1923-1924: 19-20).

  • 19 Bernard A. Tubini gathered many insects during his time in Istanbul, particularly Coleoptera specim (...)

34In due course, a stork family (1917), a large brown bear by Oskar Gunkel, a sea bird collection from Bulwer Island by Bernard Anthony Tubini, a butterfly collection from China by a certain Gustav Hanni (1922), a congor eel again by Prof. Tubini (1926), an Abyssinian leopard by Vahrami Condoyan, a college alumni (1928), and a fine series of copper ores presented by Cleveland Dodge, former Chairmen of the Board of Trustees of the college (1930) were donated and added to the museum. In addition to his sea bird collection, Bernard A. Tubini, an educator and amateur entomologist, amassed a large personal insect collection by making field studies and loaning some specimen through his international scientific connections (Dikmen, Özuluğ 2018: 28).19

Figure 4. Angele Yemenidjian with the butterfly collection presented to the museum by Gustav Hanni in the academic year of 1922 and 1923.

Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC

35The college’s scientific collections, which were initially used for practical purposes to assist courses, grew over time and turned into a professional museum. Around the 1920s, the museum had a zoological collection of mounted specimens of fishes and birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles; a fine series of vertebrate skulls and skeletons, a small collection of marine invertebrates, a small cabinet of butterflies, insects of various orders; a botanical collection of 13,000 species of flowering plants and ferns; and a geological collection of fossils, rocks, and minerals both native and foreign (Robert College Catalogue 1921-22: 21-22). These specimens were acquired through purchase, exchange, or donation. Not only the college teachers and students but also non-scientific actors such as British and American bureaucrats and diplomats or Levantine tradespeople contributed to the growth of the college museum. This is important in terms of showing the multi-layered political and commercial networks that an American education institution maintained and how essential these networks were in the formation and expansion of the college museum’s scientific collections. The next section focuses on the scientific collaborations that fostered knowledge production and expertise transfer in the local and global circles of natural sciences.

A Profound Network of Knowledge Production and Expertise Transfer

36In 1872, the director of the Imperial School of Medicine Natural History Museum, Abdullah Bey visited the Robert College Natural History Museum. Abdullah Bey noted that since Prof. Hochstetter’s Istanbul visit in 1869, this collection had been considerably enriched by a geologist and biology teacher at the college, William T. M. Forbes, under the direction of George Washburn. The collection included various fossils found in the vicinity of Rumeli Hisarı, a very interesting compilation of trilobites especially grabbed the attention of Abdullah Bey since such samples of trilobites were still missing in the imperial museum’s collection. Upon Abdullah Bey’s request, the college principal Washburn and geologist Forbes, as “true supporters of science and progress,” gave Abdullah Bey and his team all the information on the localities where these fossils in their collection were found; Washburn and Forbes even accompanied them to study the samples on the spot. The research on the ground of Balta Limanı, where the team went to search, was very fruitful in that they found several species unknown in the fauna of Bosporus until that day. They also figured out that the fauna of Balta Limanı had a local and distinct character filled with important diversities of fossils (Abdullah Bey 1872b: 89-90).

37Such professional collaborations not only on local but also on global scales were essential in bringing together the scientific collections in many natural history museums. Abdullah Bey, as soon as he was appointed to establish the imperial natural history museum, went to Vienna and brought new specimens and new scientific books to the museum that he acquired from his colleagues (Abdullah Bey 1872a: 34-35, Günergun 2010: 337-338). Meanwhile, Merzifon Anatolia College Natural History Museum curated by Manissadjian, not only unearthed the natural objects of the region but also developed a scientific dialogue by cultivating partnerships, through specimen exchanges or donations and new species discoveries and their classifications. Manissadjian collaborated with scientists, collectors, and curators, including the Austrian botanist Josef Franz Freyn; the Ottoman-Armenian botanist Georges Vincent Aznavour (Constantinople); Prof. Eberhard Fraas (Curator of Natural History Museum, Stuttgart); Prof. L. Wendl (Gymnasium-professor, München); Dr. A. Nenstadt (Biebrich of Rhein); Prof. F. Forster (Bretten, Baden); H.R. Wingate (Talas Amerikan Koleji, Kayseri); and Dr. Otto Standiger (Breslau) (Museum Catalogue 1917-18, 85; Hovhannisyan 2016: 26).

  • 20 During my visit to the Geneva Herbarium in 2018, I came across the correspondences of Georges V. Az (...)

38The Robert College Natural History Museum was also a collaborative work of science/art in and through which local and global networks developed a scientific dialogue dating back to the museum’s foundation. Along with science teachers at the college mentioned in the previous part, regional and transregional scientists played a vital role in the expansion of the museum. Georges V. Aznavour (1861-1920), a native Armenian collector and botanist in Istanbul had a significant impact on the college museum as did Bertram V. D. Post, who curated the museum for more than thirty years. Aznavour used to work as a clerk at the “Aznavour Sons Company,” an Istanbul-based firm importing pharmaceutical products in Mahmutpaşa. While he worked for the company in the mornings, he used to spend time in nature in the afternoons due to his health problems, which might have made him curious and passionate about collecting plants from Istanbul meadows (Demiriz 1964: 50; Aksoy 2018: 160). Aznavour’s correspondences with the botanists in Geneva Herbarium indicate that while diversifying the types of botanical samples he meticulously collected, he also tried to follow and procure the recent scientific works written on botany.20 He dried the collected plants through pressing and adding the location and date information next to the specimens (Demiriz 1964: 52; Aksoy 2018: 161-162).

39Soon Aznavour transformed his amateur pursuit into professional success and created a herbarium with reliable scientific practices and continued to publish the results of his research. He was elected as a member of Société Botanique de France (The Botanical Society of France) in 1896. During his lifetime, Aznavour not only worked on the specimens collected around Istanbul but also on the specimens from Konya, Merzifon, Rize, Mount Ararat, and the island of Syra on the Aegean Sea. He published his findings in international journals of botanical sciences (Demiriz 1964: 54; Baytop 2012). In his early articles written between 1897 and 1913, he discovered “22 species, 3 subspecies, 35 varieties, 8 subvarieties, 12 forms and 1 monstruosite” (Baytop 2012: 33). Even though some of these new species became synonymous in later years, they proved Aznavour’s hard efforts to contribute to the botanical nomenclature. Moreover, an article he published in 1897 heralded that Aznavour was in the process of preparing a more comprehensive work entitled “The Flora of Istanbul” (Prodrome de la Flore de Constantinople) (Baytop 2012: 36).

  • 21 For instance, he dedicated Teucrium degenianum (1899) and Erysimum degenianum (1907) to his friend (...)

40In general, Aznavour collected and named his own material. However, when he had queries, he corresponded with other Ottoman and European botanists. As an indication of his devotion to his friends and colleagues with whom he constantly met and communicated about floristic activities, Aznavour named his recently discovered specimens after his colleagues.21 Among his colleagues, Aznavour’s professional affiliation with Bertram V. D. Post transformed into a good friendship. They made numerous botanical expeditions together, exchanging many species and ideas during their lifetime. Aznavour catalogued and designated around 750 species collected by Post in Eastern Turkey, some of which were new to science (Report of the President 1914-15: 14). Moreover, Aznavour dedicated some of the species (Silene aucheriana var.bertramii, Potentilla bertramii, Nepeta bertramii, Poa violacea var.bertramii, Erodium bertramii and Thesium bertramii) that he found in his 1918 survey to Bertram V. D. Post (Demiriz 1964: 53-54).

Figure 5. Lamiaceae (family), nepeta lamiifolia Willd collected by Bertram V. D. Post at the foothills of the Mount Ararat on 10 August 1910 and designated by George V. Aznavour as nepeta bertramii Aznav. and then designated again by I. C Hedge and J. M. Lamond in 1979 as nepeta lamiifolia Willd.

Courtesy of Geneva Herbarium

  • 22 Before leaving Turkey permanently, Post had already taken abroad some parts of the Robert College H (...)
  • 23 In 1950, a major part of the text of the Flora was printed by Tsitouris Brothers printing house wit (...)

41Upon his unfortunate death in 1920 due to tuberculosis, Aznavour left behind a herbarium collection consisting of about 20,000 specimens, a manuscript of the “Flora of Istanbul,” and a comprehensive library. Not aware of the importance of the collection and the manuscript, Aznavour’s brother Jan Aznavour decided to sell the herbarium, manuscript, and library. Three people offered to buy them. These were Hungarian botanist Árpád von Degen, university professor Esat Şerafettin Köprülü (1866-1942), and Bertram Van Dyck Post. The amount that Aznavour’s brother asked for was too much for von Degen and Köprülü. However, Bertram V. D. Post, with the financial support of Robert College, purchased the botanical treasure Aznavour left behind and promised to publish Aznavour’s “Flora of Istanbul” in five years. The purchase of Aznavour’s Herbarium was a tremendous contribution to the college museum. However, in later years, Post was accused of biopiracy for taking abroad a significant part of Herbarium, which was of immense value to Turkey (Demiriz 1964: 55, Baytop 2012: 37).22 Moreover, the publication of the Flora, which took more than 20 years brought about some discussions about the authorship of the book which is subject of another study.23

Figure 6: “Taraxacum Turcicum Soest” named by George V. Aznavour, 1911, Arnavutköy.

Courtesy of Geneva Herbarium

42It was not only the botanical collection that grew in the 1920s. As the other collections in the museum expanded, the need for more specialised scientists increased. In the annual report of the 1923 academic year, Dr. Post heralded that he had secured the services of a skilful biologist, Wladimir Besnard (1890-1960), born of French parents in Saint Petersburg in the Russian Empire. Besnard studied at the University of Kyiv and the University of Moscow and had been employed by the Russian government in research work in the Far East. Trained in an empire that valued scientific education on natural history and public displays of zoological, anatomical, botanical, and geological collections gathered from all over the world (Anemone 2000: 584), Besnard became an expert in the care of aquaria and had received several medals from the Russian Government for such work. However, following the catastrophic Russian Civil War, like many refugees, including aristocrats and peasants, liberals and monarchists, scientists and artists, Buddhists and Jews (Üre 2020: 207), Besnard was also forced to leave the country and then took charge of the biological department at Robert College.

43Besnard carried on research work in the Sea of Marmara, collecting specimens with a dredging net and other apparatus. A dozen glass reservoirs were filled with seawater and aerated from a tank of compressed air. Soon the reservoir became filled with “pipefishes, sea horses, hermit crabs, spider-crabs exhibiting extraordinary protective coloration and forms, prawns, sea hares, scallops and univalve molluscs, sea-urchins, starfishes, serpent stars, superb crimson sea-anemones,” (Report of the President 1922-1923: 22). According to the report, the aquarium became a small replica of the little-known sea of Marmara that the students were able “to watch the bitterling deposit its eggs within the protecting shell of the swan mussel, and to observe the little fish embryos in all stages of development, till they finally hatch forth from their foster-mother’s gills,” (Report of the President 1922-1923: 22). Besnard and his wife even prepared a complete series of bitterling embryos from the egg to the fully developed fish to create exchange possibilities.

44Besnard thought that the college had an advantageous location standing just above the Bosporus, dominating three different sea zones. Despite this favourable situation, he stated, the marine flora and fauna of these zones had been hardly studied. To Besnard, “the teeming life of the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara” was providing an inexhaustible source of the most scientific material to understand the biological cycle. For this reason, he proposed to establish a marine biological station that would attract many students of biology both from Turkey and abroad. This would also add to the value and reputation of the college. In order to realize this project, the college had to secure the services of Besnard as a regular teacher, build an aquarium on the shore of the Bosporus, and ensure a reasonable sum for the specimen collection and the tank upkeep (Report of the President 1922-1923: 23). With the limited financial means of the college, unfortunately, a marine biological station could not be established, but a modest program was carried out and the specimens of the aquarium continued to grow. Thanks to the collecting and investigative trips, the material collected by the small floating laboratory was used to form an anatomical and histological reserve for students and specialists. This reserve enriched the special section of aquatic fauna in the college museum and provided the opportunity for the exchange of specimens with other museums of the same kind abroad, which helped furnish the Robert College Aquarium with new specimens (Report of the President 1923-1924: 17-18).

  • 24 For more information on the economic and political conditions of the Russian refugees that migrated (...)
  • 25 In the years following his work in Africa, Besnard became quite an influential figure in Brazilian (...)

45In the following years, Besnard in the accompaniment of his students pursued his research on Istanbul’s marine life and charted the shores of the Bosporus and the bottom of the Marmara Sea. He also kept adding valuable specimens to the aquarium (Report of the President 1924-25: 3) However, just four years after being hired, Besnard had to leave the college at the end of the 1926 academic year on account of the difficulty he experienced as a foreigner, especially as a non-Muslim, Russian of French origin living in Turkey. The Turkish state wanted White Russians either to leave the country or apply for Turkish citizenship, which in some cases resulted in conversion to Islam and adopting new names to gain acceptance in Turkish society (Üre 2020: 208).24 Upon leaving, Besnard obtained employment under the French government, where he then engaged in research work in Africa and achieved great success (Report of the President 1927-1928: 18). Besnard worked relentlessly for the development of the biology department, trained promising students, and awakened great interest in the marine life of Istanbul by adding new specimens to the college museum. While the contribution of Besnard to the college was clear, how Besnard’s four-year experience in Istanbul had an impact on his later work is a topic that should be traced. Shortly after he left Istanbul, Besnard converted his research into a report titled “Les poissons migrateurs du Bosphore et leur pêche,” in 1929.25

46In some cases, even short-term visitors provided golden opportunities for the expansion of the museum collections. For instance, around the late 1920s, “a rare chance presented itself” in Post’s words (Report of the President 1928-1929: 17). A distinguished Hungarian entomologist Dr. Ajtay-Kovach, on his way to collect insects from Asia Minor, passed through Istanbul and visited the college museum. He worked on the museum’s beetle collection and gifted new specimens collected by himself. For the upcoming years, he proposed to the college administration an offer of his services for the benefit of the museum collection from time to time on reasonable terms. In 1930, he revisited the college museum and this time worked on the entomological collection for six weeks. He named the specimens and arranged them attractively (Report of the President 1929-1930: 30). Despite the limited information on Ajtay-Kovach, one may assume that as a Hungarian entomologist, Ajtay-Kovach practiced his skills in the college, probably taught his expertise to Post and his assistant Yemenidjian, and even to college students.

47These examples show that the college museum’s environment functioned as a profound network of knowledge production and expertise transfer cultivating new scientific collaborations between local and global circles. The scientific actors that contributed to the museum varied from a local Ottoman-Armenian botanist to a Russian-French biologist and a Hungarian entomologist. However, these examples also challenge the theory that the “centre” produced science and the “periphery” embraced and consumed it, so called one-way diffusion of knowledge transfer from the ‘centre’ to the ‘periphery.’ Rather, the experiences of scientific actors of the college museum disrupt these binary descriptions by revealing collaborative processes of knowledge production and expertise transfer. But, more importantly, they provide us with a framework to understand how the knowledge of local/regional objects of nature transforms into “universal” scientific knowledge in the history of natural sciences. The following part moves away from the focus on scientific actors of the museum to its visitors. It focuses on composition of the college museum visitors and explores how natural objects in the museum and their display had an impact on shaping the visitors’ sensibilities and imaginations in the early 1920s and 1930s.

Museum Display and Visitors

48In 1913, Bertram V. D. Post penned his report as the “museum curator” for the first time. The display cases of some species occupied a vital place in the report that depicted some of the scenes in the museum:

In one of the cases is a vulture scene, showing four big vultures of different species, either swooping down actually engaged in operations upon a carcass. At one side of the case is an eagle-owl being attacked by smaller birds. The other large case is devoted to mammals, of which a quite number have been added to the museum. These include a she-bear and cub; a fallow deer with her fawn; a buck and doe of another species of deer; a huge wild sow; a group of five stone-martens quarrelling over a duck that one of them has stolen; and an otter. The smaller cases contain a number of pigeons of different breeds -pouters, fantails, jacobines, barbs, etc. along with the common, ancestral rock-dove; groups of singing-birds, waterbirds, a gorgeous golden pheasant strutting before a pair of hens, and a group of reptiles. A large python, with head erect and jaws distended, about to devour a rabbit, which it has crushed and holds in its deadly coils, forms another effective piece (Report of the President 1912-1913: 29).

49Dr. Post realized that displaying the specimen on natural settings that showed the habitats and environments of each animal was quite crucial to producing a pleasing and cogent visual effect for the visitors. Indeed, on commencement day in 1914, Dr. Post placed a case containing a group of cormorants in characteristic poses at the head of the first-floor stairs leading to the museum, which was located on the top floor of George Washburn Hall and difficult to access. His aim was apparently to attract more visitors. The case was arranged with mirrors to look like a pond of water, and the birds appeared to be swimming, diving, and flying in life-like postures. As planned, developing a visually appealing display led to an interested crowd and more visitors than usual to the museum that day (Report of the President 1914-1915: 14). Along with depicting the natural settings of the specimens, Post recognized that the collections should be presented in a way that revealed the biological and geographical diversity of the museum. These displays were ultimately the spectacular scenes of the scientific networks, knowledge transfer, and political and economic collaborations which mostly remained in the background of the museum’s formation.

Figure 7. Embalmed bird samples (no date).

Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC.

  • 26 Victoria Carroll suggests that there are countless reports of visits to museums and exhibitions wai (...)

50The 19th century witnessed various means of exhibiting, such as world fairs, private cabinets, public museums, galleries, commercial demonstrations, panoramas, menageries, and freak shows. This rising theatricalisation also had an impact on the display of natural and scientific knowledge. In that sense, natural history museums became popular spots where natural objects became knowable through visual experience (Carroll 2007: 271). Many people visited these spectacular science venues, yet, unfortunately, they left barely putting an impression or account of their visits behind. This absence of a record makes it almost impossible to gather what visitors really made of these science venues in the past. Such a lack in the availability of visiting accounts in general stands as an obstacle to developing the linkages between museum practice and popular perception.26 Fortunately, in the case of the Robert College Natural History Museum, the president’s reports and the museum’s visitors book help us determine who the museum visitors were, at least between the late 1920s and the 1940s, and what they thought of the museum environment and collections during their visits.

  • 27 The John Murray travel handbooks covered tourist destinations in Europe, Asia and northern Africa a (...)
  • 28 Robert College was closely following the developments in the field of engineering and medicine in t (...)

51In the early years of the formation, Robert College’s scientific collections were primarily used for educational purposes to assist natural sciences courses. However, the president’s reports reveal that the collections that grew over time were intended for the interest not only of the college students and staff, but also of local and international educational institutions, scientific communities, and tourist groups. As one of the oldest American educational institutions founded outside of the United States, Robert College already attracted enormous attention as a tourist destination in Istanbul since its foundation. Even the popular John Murray’s travelers’ handbook on Turkey suggested the college was a sight to behold in 1878. After describing a few characteristics about the location, educational content, and architectural components of the college, he referenced a library and a small museum in which visitors would see the “collections of the birds of Turkey, of the geology and fossils of Bosporus and an enormous hornets’ nest!” (Murray 1878: 107).27 The college, which found a room in a popular travel book even in its earlier years, attracted more attention over time with its location overlooking the Bosporus, the interesting architecture of the buildings rising on the ridges of Rumeli Hisarı, and most importantly, with the quality and philosophy of education that followed the scientific and technological developments experienced at the global level.28 The college administration wanted to present its social, musical, athletic, literary, and scientific events to a broader audience and prepared newsletters to attract people who visited Istanbul to the college campus. They even contacted travel agencies to promote Robert College as a tourist destination. When tourists visited the campus, the college administration gave them brief descriptive and illustrated pamphlets to make their visit more productive (Report of the President 1922-23: 19-20). It is very likely that the college museum was one of the locations that most attracted the visitors’ attention.

  • 29 In the 1925 and 1926 academic year, among those who visited the museum in large groups were the Gov (...)

52The president’s reports reveal that the college administration trained students as guides and had the museum open on fixed days and at regular times. As of 1925, the museum became open to visitors on Fridays and Sundays from 3 to 5 pm and a trained student guided the visitors, as well as Dr. Post’s assistant Angele Yemenidjian (Report of the President 1925-1926: 36). The museum hosted many visitors from the Ottoman Minister of Education to a school student, from a Botany professor at University of California Berkeley to the governor of Konya.29

  • 30 While working at Boğaziçi University Archives and Documentation Center in 2017, my colleagues and I (...)

53While the diversity of the visitors was impressive, the information given in the reports hardly suggests what visitors thought of the museum. The museum’s visitors’ book, on the other hand, stands as a valuable source revealing how the visitors viewed and interpreted the museum exhibitions. The visitors’ accounts, containing about seven hundred entries, start on 19th January 1927 and last until the end of the 1940s. The entries include columns with information about the visitors’ names, affiliations, occupations, visiting date, as well as their impressions about the museum.30

Figure 8. A sample page from the Museum’s Visitors Book.

Courtesy of BUADC.

54Not surprisingly, Robert College students were among the common visitors of the museum. Some of the visiting students reflected their admiration for the collections with expressions such as “the precious museum in the city,” “the most useful corner of the college,” “such interesting and delicate things.” Among these, the reflection of a college student named Jack Maya, entered in the visitors’ book in 1932, hints at future possibilities that the diversity of the collections made him feel: “The various kinds of animals, insects, birds, etc. affected me deeply. Thinking for the future. I think R.C. museum will be one of the most awe-inspiring.”

55The schools in the city, such as state, minority, naval, agricultural, military and teaching schools, evidently considered a visit to the museum as a worthwhile educational opportunity for their personnel and students. Gedikpaşa American School, Galatasaray High School, Arnavutköy Armenian School, Kabataş High School for Boys, Haydarpaşa Medical School, Kızıltoprak Fine Arts High School were among them. The impressions and thoughts of the students of medicine who visited the museum in 1937 reflected a general positive opinion. Taking a great pleasure from their visit, they found the embalming of the animals and the poses given to them excellent and expressed their thankfulness to Miss Yemenidjian, the veteran of this museum for her great work of art and labour.

  • 31 Although the name of Anne Post, the second wife of Dr. Bertram V. D. Post, appeared several times i (...)

56Besides Istanbul, groups of people from various Anatolian cities such as Izmir, Merzifon, Bursa, Adana, and Balıkesir also paid visits to the museum. This reveals that the museum became a destination for domestic tourism, visited by organized or guided groups. A reflection similar to that of the students of medicine also emerges in the account of Ramiz, who visited the museum in 1931 with a group of thirty teachers from Edremit. Ramiz wrote that they appreciated the organisation and work of the museum following a two-hour excursion and, in this regard, he expressed gratitude to Angele Yemenidjian who devoted her precious hours to their disposal. As mentioned previously, Yemenidjian remained as a modest person who carried on her work from year to year with little notice and no publicity. However, her work requiring great technical skills in preparing and maintaining the specimens exhibited in the college museum for a great number of years had vital importance. For this reason, the gratitude on and acknowledgement of Yemenidjian’s work in the visitors’ book is quite crucial to rescue from oblivion Yemenidjian’s importance in the life of this museum and to bring the female labour into the picture of male-dominated scientific work.31

57Educational inspectors and those with bureaucratic duties also visited the museum. The son of the Third Army Inspector Full General Kazım Orbay, Haşmet Kazım Orbay (1937) stated that the college was a school that should be proud of its museum and wished that other schools had such rich and rewarding museums as well. The then Minister of National Education, Hasan Âli Yücel (1938-1946), visited the museum in 1944 and wrote in the guestbook that he was delighted to see that young people beneficial to their nations and humanity were raised in such an institution of wisdom administered by mature people. On the one hand, in a period when scientific and natural knowledge of the local flora and fauna became quite influential in the promotion of patriotism (Köse 2019: 243), the state officers might have seen the college museum, whose collections exemplified zoological and botanical specimens of Turkey, as a tool to establish a national bond between the recently born nation-state and her ‘progressive’ citizens who had valued scientific and technological development. On the other hand, the museum being visited, and the excellence of the collections recognised by the Turkish education authorities was gratifying for the college administration.

58The museum’s international visitors were mostly representatives of scientific institutions and museums, students (at American schools) of various nationalities, including Bulgarians, Albanians, Arabs, French, Germans, and primarily American tourists who came to Istanbul with steamers. For instance, in the academic year 1923 and 1924, the tourist season lasted longer than before, and a greater number of tourists visited Istanbul. Around 500 American tourists visited the college and were guided through the college buildings (Report of the President 1923-24: 12). In the 1928-1929 academic year, the number of visitors to Istanbul decreased due to the world financial crisis and severe winter conditions in the city, but still, approximately 300 American tourists visited the college (Report of the President 1928-29: 35).

  • 32 Overall, the museum experience for the visitors was pleasing. However, a few comments mentioning di (...)

59Similar sentiments to those of local visitors resonated in the international visitors’ entries. Some described the museum as “the lighthouse of the East, which guides the youth” (1927) and some acknowledged the endeavour of the “American idealists and philanthropists who contributed to the creation of such a perfect establishment” (1931). Overall, they interpreted the presence of such a natural history museum as proof for civilizational aspirations through the cultivation of science in Turkey. To put it briefly, the language in these entries was mostly full of amazement, appreciation, admiration, and gratitude.32 The curiosity towards the past and the unknown, the esteem for the scientific progress of the day and the promise of the future, all coalesced in the museum environment.

Conclusion: “Importance of Little Things”

60In 1933, Bertram V. D. Post gave the college faculty and students a stimulating talk, titled “Importance of Little Things.” He reminded them of the fact that the achievement of great things depended mostly on the arrangement of small details. He said, “Darwin worked for twenty years to the astounding theory of evolution.” (The Robert College Herald 1933: 20). Bertram V. D. Post had been the curator of the museum for more than thirty years, and he devoted himself to the small details of acts of discovering, naming, and displaying natural objects. It had been through this continued interest and tireless effort that many valuable specimens were procured. He was not alone in this labour. His assistant Angele Yemenidjian was the tower of strength in enriching the college education and developing a natural science museum. Their curatorial vision and methodology of teaching merged with the museological tradition of natural sciences transformed the amateur pursuit of the college teachers and students into a professional one.

Figure 9. Dr. Bertram V. D. Post and a student at the Robert College Natural History Museum (no date).

Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC.

61The college’s natural history museum is also a reminder that knowledge, while institutionalised, no more exists in residency than do the individuals who formulate and appropriate it. Housing natural objects of botany, zoology and geology that spanned geological eras, political entities, nations, and cultures, from all over the world including Asia Minor, China, Brazil, France, etc., this museum revealed an interactive network in scientific knowledge production and expertise transfer. The experiences of the museum’s scientific actors, varying from American educators to an Ottoman-Armenian botanist, from a Russian-French biologist to a Hungarian entomologist, revealed the entangled history of knowledge production and expertise transfer and challenged the premise of the “centre” producing science and the “periphery” embracing and consuming it or the latter’s reliance on the former.

62Not only scientific actors but also non-scientific actors such as British diplomats or Istanbul Levantine tradespeople engaged with the college museum’s expansion. Thus, the museum functioned as a profound network of exchange between the college teachers and students, scientists, naturalists, diplomats, and merchants. As a work of art and labour, this museum attracted and impressed many local and international visitors/tourists. It displayed the unique properties of specimens removing them from the realm of the curious and served as a scientific and cultural venue where local and global natural objects and knowledge, as well as people interacted.

63Before concluding this article, a few words about the fate of Robert College’s Natural History Museum are in order. Despite all the painstaking effort, care, and devotion of the people who had collected, preserved, classified, and arranged the specimens, the museum had hard times ahead. Upon the retirement of Dr. Post, Philip Ullyott, a life sciences teacher at Robert College, took over the curatorship of the museum in 1943. In the early 1940s, the museum was still on the top floor of Washburn Hall and had three rooms; the vestibule, annex, and museum proper, covering an area of approximately 385 square yards (about 352 square meters) (Sakarya 1982: 9). However, the museum was getting crowded day by day and the space became insufficient for the exhibition of scientific collections under appropriate conditions. In 1953-54 academic report Ullyott made the following statement:

The museum is by far the richest of its kind in Turkey with incomparably the best preserved and mounted specimens. There is a comprehensive collection of the native animals of this country. The insect collection is, again, the best in Turkey with more than 4,000 mounted, identified and labeled specimens of insects of Turkish origin, as well as a few large and colorful specimens from foreign parts. Further, we have good representative international collections in Geology and Paleontology, each collection running to about 3.000 specimens. At present, the display space and the display facilities are quite inadequate: the collections of birds and fishes, for example, need at least three times their present room to be shown off to best advantages only half the geological and paleontological specimens are on view and very crowded at that? We have no insects on public display at all. The museum must have more space and more funds for development (Annual Report of 1953-1954: 4-5)

64Thereupon, in May 1954, Dr. Ullyot prepared a report for consideration of the President’s Committee of the Ford Foundation Appeal. It was a proposal for the re-housing of the Natural History Museum and the Biology Department of Robert College. Even though the college owned a splendid natural history museum, “like a pearl in the oyster,” it was indiscernible from the outside and difficult to access. Along with the less than ideal location, the museum space fell short of displaying the diversity of rich scientific collections (The Report of the President 1953-1954, 5; Sakarya 1982, 9). However, his proposal was not accepted.

  • 33 A few points would be helpful to trace the life of the museum. According to the information obtaine (...)

65In the following years, to provide space to an expanding English Language Division at Robert College, the museum’s collection was temporarily stored until suitable space could be found for it (Alumni Bulletin Vol I. 1962: 6). Housed in Theodorus Hall, one of the campus buildings, in 1964, the museum was reactivated by the effort of Lee Gardner, a biology teacher at the then called Robert Academy and a member of the Istanbul Zoology Association. Dr. Gardner even added a live animal exhibition to the museum (Alumni Bulletin Vol 17 1964: 26). After a while, bear cubs were added to the garden, where mainly small animals were located. The zoo was closed after the merger of the Robert Academy and the American College for Girls in 1971. Some of the specimens in the museum were either lost or damaged while being transferred to the Arnavutköy Campus. The surviving collections were preserved and exhibited in different buildings of the college for only educational purposes. A part of the museum collection was transferred to the natural history collections of the Museum of Natural Sciences at the French Lycée of Saint-Joseph, Istanbul in 2006 and is still on display there.33

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Bibliography

Archives

Boğaziçi University Archives and Documentation Center, Scott Family Collection

Columbia University Robert College Rare Collection

Geneva Herbarium, George V. Aznavour and Bertram V. D. Post Archives

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Notes

1 Ferdinand von Hochstetter noted that the mining council had six members. The council was chaired by Talat Bey, an Ottoman administrative official; Kadri Bey, a lieutenant colonel; E. Beral, the French chief engineer of the mines; Caesar de Rafeeli, an Italian pharmacist; Surupian Effendi, an Armenian doctor; and Arif Effendi, the director of the Forestry Council. There was also a seventh consultative member, Dr. E. Weiss of Freiberg, a highly trained German geognost and metallurgist (Hochstetter 1870: 367). Mapping the relevant geography with all its natural resources during mining expeditions or the construction of new railway and road networks was essential. For this reason, the council was composed of experts specialising in different scientific fields. In addition, different types of expertise helped make discoveries at a time when the mining industry and medicinal plant market were developing.

2 Hochstetter carried out his exploratory inspection from Istanbul to Edirne, Plovdiv, and Nis from July 30th to mid-October of 1869. Then he prepared a geological map of the Ottoman Balkans in 1870.

3 Robert College began its institutional life in Istanbul in 1863, with financing by Christopher R. Robert (1802-1878), an American philanthropist and merchant. Cyrus Hamlin (1811-1900), an American missionary and educator, established the college in the locality of Bebek, a Bosporus village on the European part of Istanbul. A few years after its foundation, it moved to a locality on the hills of Rumelihisarı in 1871.

4 The original copies of Robert College Records are located at Columbia University. Thanks to the agreement between Columbia University and Boğaziçi University in 2013, Columbia University sent digital copies of the Robert College Records to Boğaziçi University.

5 For detailed information about the naturalists and botanists who visited the Ottoman Empire in different time periods see Baytop 2004 and Sakınç 2013.

6 This interest of the Ottoman elite in objects of nature not only derived from economic and practical purposes, but were also related to ceremonial and entertainment purposes. As Feza Günergun pointed out, the collections of live animals, called wild animals (hayvanat-ı vahşiye) or strange animals (hayvanat-ı acayibe) were preserved and displayed in suitable places belonging to the palaces, such as near gardens and mostly used for entertainment activities. Partially tamed and trained, these animals’ skills were exhibited on several grand occasions like circumcision feasts of the royals. The ways of possessing live animal collections varied. They were either sent to the sultan after being caught by local administrators or gifted to the sultan by Asian or African rulers (Günergun 2006). Purchasing exotic animals from different countries was also a way of enlarging the collections (Sunar 2018).

7 This text published in Gazette Medical d’Orient in 1872 was edited and translated into Turkish by Feza Günergun (Günergun 2009-10).

8 Unfortunately, with the sudden death of Abdullah Bey in 1874 during geological surveys for a new railway in Anatolia, activities in the natural history museum of the Imperial School were interrupted. In the following years, with the merger of military and civil medical schools, the museum collections were spread across various locations. Ultimately, the entire museum collection is believed to have been burned and destroyed during the Great Fire of Vefa in 1918 (Günergun 2019; Sarı, Özdemir 2020).

9 The scientific studies to revitalize the natural history collections in Saint-Joseph High School started at the beginning of the 2000s. A few years later, the museum collections began to be displayed at the Natural Sciences Center of the school. Today, this well-organized museum is open to the public for visits upon appointment. I would like to thank Ahmet Birsel, the coordinator of the Museum of Natural Sciences at Saint-Joseph, for his help in introducing the museum history and collections to me on 18 September 2018.

10 The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), or “American Board,” was a Boston-based Protestant agency founded in 1810 and chartered in 1812, in Massachusetts, USA. The main purpose of the board was to spread the Protestant Christian worldview to the geographies they determined outside America. The first board missionaries came to the Near East in 1820. After a while, they started to report information to the central office in the USA about the living conditions, the composition of the local people, and their activities in Anatolia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Since they were prohibited to convert the Muslim population, in the desire of creating a Protestant community, the missioners were mostly in contact with the indigenous Christian societies living in the Ottoman lands, including the Armenians and Greeks. After the Ottoman Empire defined the Protestant subjects as a millet in 1847 and officially defined the rights and privileges of the Protestants in 1850, the missionaries started to establish institutions for the spiritual and intellectual development of the community. With the motto the “field is the World,” they maintained churches, schools, libraries, publishing houses, museums, hospitals, and industrial centers in the Near East, see http://www.dlir.org/archive/items/show/11084 (access date 15.03.2020).

11 Located outside of Istanbul, the natural history museum in Merzifon attracted the attention of many researchers. SALT hold an exhibition on this museum and its curator Manissadjian, called “Empty Lands,” in 2016. Built on materials from the archives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), this exhibition is the first to examine Protestant missionary activities in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey: https://saltonline.org/tr/1364/bos-alanlar This path-breaking exhibition and the digitally available sources encouraged other scholars to pursue the history of the college museum more, see Göçmengil 2019: 64-70 or Alçıtepe, Alçıtepe 2019.

12 George E. Post was one of the leading figures in the organization and development of the Medical School in Beirut, which was officially recognized by the Imperial Ottoman authority. Along with being a distinguished surgeon, Post became interested in botany and pursued this avocation all through his life. Anywhere he visited, he methodologically collected plants, and later turned out a book publication entitled Flora of Syria, Palestine and Sinai. (Sa’di, Sarton 1938; Musselman, Saoud 2004). As George E. Post became a pioneer scientist in the Middle East and interacted with significant scientists and botanists of his day, his son Bertram V. D. Post benefited from his experience by accompanying him on botanical expeditions. The herbarium of George E. Post, which consists of pressed and dried plants, named, and classified, representing the flora of a large part of the Mediterranean Region, is preserved at Post Herbarium, American University of Beirut. Some samples provided by George E. Post are also located at Geneva Herbarium and Royal Garden Edinburgh.

13 This text, titled “My Background, Health, and Education,” written by Bertram V. D. Post’s daughter Dorothy Post to be forwarded to her doctor, is included in the Scott Family Collection at Boğaziçi University Archives and Documentation Center.

14 “Museum Catalog as it came from Merzifon, 1939,” SALT Research, American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archives (ABCFM), with permission of ARIT, https://archives.saltresearch.org/handle/123456789/42920

15 One of the sources that inspired me in this study was an old Robert College student, Esref Sakarya’s unpublished chronological narrative entitled “The Robert College Natural History Museum Old and New,” dated 1982. I would like to thank Zeinab Azarbadegan who helped me reach out this source through Columbia University Library Robert College Rare Collections Section.

16 In later years, Dr. Post thought that Miss Yemenidjian’s technique of the preparation of skeletons for the college museum was even favorably comparable with the work of Maison Deyrolle, an institution of natural sciences and pedagogy, in Paris (Report of the President 1926-1927: 34).

17 No detailed information was found about Mr. Jakisch.

18 Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963), an Austrian civil engineer, accepted a position in the Imperial School of Engineers in Istanbul in 1916 during World War I. Upon the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Terzaghi lost his job. However, since he took a post at Robert College, he did not have to leave Istanbul. While he was teaching at Robert College, he founded the branch of civil engineering science known as soil mechanics. In 1925, he left Istanbul to pursue his studies in the US. For biographies of Karl Terzaghi see Goodman 1998 and Özüdoğru 2003.

19 Bernard A. Tubini gathered many insects during his time in Istanbul, particularly Coleoptera specimens. Upon his death, his heirs handed his personal insect collection to Istanbul University Zoology Collection instead of the Robert College Natural History Museum (Dikmen, Özuluğ 2018: 28).

20 During my visit to the Geneva Herbarium in 2018, I came across the correspondences of Georges V. Aznavour with the Herbarium directors and botanists between 1899-1904. These correspondences indicate Aznavour’s request for help in the classification of some botanical specimens he collected, as well as his efforts to obtain new issues of du bulletin de l’Herbier Boissier (The Bulletin of Bossier Herbarium). I would like to thank Dr. Laurent Gautier for drawing my attention to these correspondences.

21 For instance, he dedicated Teucrium degenianum (1899) and Erysimum degenianum (1907) to his friend Hungarian botanist Arpad von Degen (1866-1934), Salvia lobryana (1902) to Reverend FX Lobry from Saint Benoit French High School, Merendera manissadjiani (1908) to John Manissadjian, Serratula bornmuelleri (1912) to the German botanist Joseph Friedrich Nicolaus Bornmüller (1862-1948), who worked on Anatolian flora, Tulipa tchitouny (1917) to Dikran Tchitouny (1881-1960) who prepared “Herbier Artistique” including the specimens collected around Van and environs (Demiriz 1964: 53; Baytop 2012: 33; Aksoy 2018: 162).

22 Before leaving Turkey permanently, Post had already taken abroad some parts of the Robert College Herbarium Collection. In 1956, he planned with Charles Baehni, the director of the Botanical Conservatory at Geneva to deposit his herbarium, as well as Aznavour’s herbarium, to this institution for an indefinite period of time.

23 In 1950, a major part of the text of the Flora was printed by Tsitouris Brothers printing house with the names of Anne Post who illustrated the samples and Bertram Van Dyck Post. After the publication, Dr. Post was harshly criticised not only for taking the Aznavour Herbarium out of Turkey but also for not including his name as one of the authors of the book. Even though Anne and Bertram V. D. Post explained why they did not name Aznavour as the author in the French edition, this explanation did not appear in the Turkish edition. The Posts saw Aznavour’s manuscript as a monument of patience and erudition. They claimed they would have liked the book to appear under his name, but the unfinished state of his work, the innumerable additions due to later discoveries from different points of view, with new interpretations, did not allow them to do so. They hoped that the manuscript of Aznavour would be a basis for other works, as it did for theirs (Post, Post 1950: 3-4). Despite the incomplete and unpleasant adventure of the Flora, both Bertram V. D. Post’s and George V. Aznavour’s herbarium collections can be accessed from the herbaria in Geneva and Edinburgh today. Various Aznavour specimens have been also found in many other herbaria in Budapest, Gothenburg, Lyon, Manchester, Durban, Vienna, Beirut, and Istanbul as well (Aksoy 2018: 165).

24 For more information on the economic and political conditions of the Russian refugees that migrated into the nascent Turkish state and the citizenship regulations about these refugees see Üre 2020: 207-221.

25 In the years following his work in Africa, Besnard became quite an influential figure in Brazilian oceanography, see also http://www.neglectedscience.com/alphabetical-list/b/wladimir-besnard

26 Victoria Carroll suggests that there are countless reports of visits to museums and exhibitions waiting to be examined because a scholar can trace the visitors’ experiences buried in memoirs, biographies, guidebooks, pamphlets, periodical articles, and other ephemeral sources, but it requires meticulous detective work (Carroll 2007: 294-295).

27 The John Murray travel handbooks covered tourist destinations in Europe, Asia and northern Africa and bolstered the long-distance tourism and "exemplified the exhaustive rational planning that was as much an ideal of the emerging tourist industry as it was of British commercial and industrial organization generally,” as James Buzard suggested (Buzard 1991: 38).

28 Robert College was closely following the developments in the field of engineering and medicine in the world. An Engineering School was established within the college around the 1910s, and the engineers who were trained there played an important role in the development of many infrastructure and engineering projects across the country. Although the American College for Girls, the sister institution of Robert College, could not open a medical school, it adopted an educational approach that emphasized women’s participation in social and economic life and having a profession. In addition, some of the college students -graduated from these American educational institutions in Istanbul which boasted an ethnically and nationally diverse body of students- served as senior officials when they returned to their countries. All these features attracted the attention of people watching Turkey for political, commercial, or cultural reasons.

29 In the 1925 and 1926 academic year, among those who visited the museum in large groups were the Government Law School (15 students), Gedikpaşa American School (30), Üsküdar Armenian High School (33), Mesropian School (40), Hintlian School (30), Ortaköy-Arnavutköy American School (50), Haydarpaşa Medical School (7), two Turkish schools (25 students each) and a large party of French Frères from various schools in the city. Among the distinguished guests, there were Mabel Louise Robinson who taught advanced fiction writing workshops at Columbia University. Moreover, Willis Linn Jepson, the Botany Professor at the University of California Berkeley visited the museum and was so greatly pleased with the college herbarium thathe offered to exchange specimens. (Report of the President 1925-1926: 36).

30 While working at Boğaziçi University Archives and Documentation Center in 2017, my colleagues and I stumbled upon this visitors’ book within the documents belonging to the Scott Family Collection, which has been preserved at the University’s Cultural Heritage Museum, now a part of the History Department of the University. After reading a few entries, I realized that this visitors’ book belonged to the Robert College Natural History Museum that does not physically exist anymore. A few pictures I found in the institutional archives (a few of them were used in this article) made me aware of the presence of such a museum and motivated me to trace the history of it.

31 Although the name of Anne Post, the second wife of Dr. Bertram V. D. Post, appeared several times in the reports, I had difficulty in finding information about her. In later years, Anne Post appeared as the second author in Flora of Istanbul and it was stated that the plant illustrations in the book were done by her. My research on Anne Post continues.

32 Overall, the museum experience for the visitors was pleasing. However, a few comments mentioning dissatisfaction with the museum appeared in the visitors’ book. For instance, Cemal Avni (1937) did not appreciate the museum since he did not believe in biology (hayatiyata inanmadığım için). Although not fully understood, there is a possibility that Cemal Avni might have found the museum disturbing since he does not believe in evolution. In a later period, İzzeddin Mustafa (1948) expressed that he did not find the museum remarkable compared to the other museums he had seen so far. It is important to note that although disgust was a common reaction to the displays of creatures once alive in natural history museums in general (Alberti 2007), none of the visitors’ entries included such a sign of disturbance. Perhaps, those who felt disgust might have thought that their experiences were not worth recording.

33 A few points would be helpful to trace the life of the museum. According to the information obtained from Berrin Akyıldırım’s study on natural history museum collections in secondary institutions in Istanbul and interviews she conducted with biology teachers; the collections of natural history museum were first placed on the roof of Gould Hall after moving to Arnavutköy Campus. Then the collections were moved to the Bingham Hall in 1978, some remaining in the Gould Hall (Akyıldırım 2006: 32). Necmi Aksoy claims that even though the museum collections were renovated between 1978 and 1992, these renovations were not appropriate for the restoration of a natural history museum. In 1992, the collections were transferred to the Feyyaz Berker Hall and dispersed throughout different floors (Aksoy 2018: 166-169). The Robert College administration transferred the natural history collections to the Museum of Natural Sciences at the French Lycée of Saint-Joseph, Istanbul in 2006 (Interview with Ahmet Birsel, 2018).

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List of illustrations

Caption Figure 1. Dr. Bertram V. D. Post and Angele Yemenidjian in the Robert College Natural History Museum, Dr. Post shows the congor eel presented to the college by Prof. Tubini in the academic year of 1925 and 1926.
Credits Courtesy of Columbia University Robert College Rare Collections (CU-RBML) and Bogazici Archives and Documentation Center (BUADC)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 334k
Caption Figure 2. Washburn Hall, The Natural History Museum was located on the top floor.
Credits Courtesy of (CU-RBML) and (BUADC)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 431k
Caption Figure 3. Angele Yemenidjian while preparing plant species for the Herbarium Collection (no date).
Credits Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 373k
Caption Figure 4. Angele Yemenidjian with the butterfly collection presented to the museum by Gustav Hanni in the academic year of 1922 and 1923.
Credits Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 491k
Caption Figure 5. Lamiaceae (family), nepeta lamiifolia Willd collected by Bertram V. D. Post at the foothills of the Mount Ararat on 10 August 1910 and designated by George V. Aznavour as nepeta bertramii Aznav. and then designated again by I. C Hedge and J. M. Lamond in 1979 as nepeta lamiifolia Willd.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 98k
Caption Figure 6: “Taraxacum Turcicum Soest” named by George V. Aznavour, 1911, Arnavutköy.
Credits Courtesy of Geneva Herbarium
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 435k
Caption Figure 7. Embalmed bird samples (no date).
Credits Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 114k
Caption Figure 8. A sample page from the Museum’s Visitors Book.
Credits Courtesy of BUADC.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 170k
Caption Figure 9. Dr. Bertram V. D. Post and a student at the Robert College Natural History Museum (no date).
Credits Courtesy of CU-RBML and BUADC.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/docannexe/image/7178/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 234k
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References

Electronic reference

Nurçin İleri, « Objects of Nature and Scientific Knowledge on the Move: The Robert College Natural History Museum in Istanbul », European Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 32 | 2021, Online since 30 April 2022, connection on 15 August 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ejts/7178 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/ejts.7178

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About the author

Nurçin İleri

Forum Transregionale Studien and Humboldt University
nurcinileri@gmail.com

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