Where it all began: The Backyard, far from the City
It was the summer of 2012, when Kenan Yavuz - a businessman who was born and raised in the village of Bespinar located in Bayburt/Turkey - decided to build an amphitheatre in the garden of his family home, from where he had to immigrate to the west in pursuit of his academic and professional career back in 1981.
The amphitheatre was built to facilitate film evenings for the village kids. Mr. Yavuz shares from his memories ‘’It took us three hours to ride on the back of a truck to go to the city centre to watch a movie back in the days, that is if our parents could find the money.” Even though the infrastructure of the region has improved significantly since then, Bayburt to date is the city that had suffered the most population loss in Turkey - causing a cultural erosion along with the loss of economic opportunities that even led to the closure of its only cinema.
Along with the amphitheatre, Yavuz family also built a house where the family could unite during summer host guests as well as a storage/exhibition room in the garden where they began preserving/exhibiting family heirlooms and agricultural tools that had been passed down through generations.
The amphitheatre, being open to the public for free, while entertaining the local kids with many movies in the evenings, started to host cultural events such as traditional concerts, folklore dance evenings, dinner gatherings and educational events for the students of local schools.
Kenan Yavuz Cultural Center
Within a short period of time, the family home with its events gatherings was named as a cultural center which received the sympathy of the local population and became a popular destination by 2013.
The exhibition of the agricultural tools heirlooms in the center encouraged many visitors to donate more items that needed preservation. The Yavuz family began exhibiting all items donated along with the name tags and the stories of the items which allowed the collection to grow much faster and help create an ownership mindset for the local community who (including the Yavuz family) did not know that they were laying the foundations of an ethnography museum.
The Village House: What is Lost can be Revived
As the number of visitors at the culture center grew, the Yavuz family decided to build a replica of the village house in which the family was originally located. Following their migration in the past, the house - which was located in the village center, went through construction by its later owners that caused the traditional/original architecture to be lost completely.
The replica was also furnished with the original furniture clothing that belonged to the family members who had lived in the house. The house quickly became a symbol a leading example of an Anatolian house which attracted more visitors from neighbouring cities.
The guests then would be offered free tea/coffee from the family home, have conversations with the family members including Alime Yavuz (aged 85) who would (and still to date) greet everyone as a personal guest and tell stories of how their life was in the past.
Even Though most items exhibited dated back to the 1950's, the structure/technology of these items would be the same as those of the mid 19th century including the plough, wooden harrow or the making of rope out of wheat stems which was a technique used for thousands of years B.C.
Intangible assets too were desired to be preserved such as the ways of living and the cultural heritage which was enriched through many civilizations and ethnicities who called Bayburt home once including the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Seljuk Empire and Ottoman Empire. Documentation of folk music, traditional dishes, dances became a part of the center’s quickly growing projects.
Between 2013 and 2019, the Yavuz family began visiting many homes in each village (170 villages to date in Bayburt) and managed to grow its collection through donations to hundreds of items varying from personal belongings to handcrafting tools as well as growing the number of volunteers from the local community who would take responsibility in the events hosted at the museum as well as helping shape museums vision and mission.
A Museum Born: Kenan Yavuz Ethnography Museum
In 2019, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism registered the cultural center as a private museum, which opened a brand new chapter for the future of the region.
The Museum later built its village square (consisting of traditional village shops that are named after the craftsman who was once famous for their works in those fields), prayer room, the library, the birds' house (where endemic pigeons of Bayburt are nested and are free to leave/return to the museum whilst being taken care of), water-mill house, the tandoor, expansion of the exhibition room, and the installation of outdoor permanent exhibitions were completed by 2020.
The works carried out by the Museum also included restoration of a 200 y.o Armenian fountain in a neighbouring village, relocation of a watermill whose previous location is now left underwater due to the structure of a local dam, partnership with Bayburt University on research and project development, influencing the initiation of tiles restoration of Bayburt Castle (firstly renovated by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.) with the museums permanent Cini Macin Tiles exhibition, reviving the Seljuk Empire’s courtyard architecture through the building of Loru Han (the accommodation facility of the Museum), and organising an annual harvest festival where locals and visitors participate in reviving all stages of food production with the methods that were being used for centuries until the 20th century including threshing and grinding wheat.
Experience Makes Stronger Memories
The living museum model implemented allowed visitors to not only see items of the past but also experience it through participation which ensures the future of Kenan Yavuz Ethnography museum is bonded with current and future generations.
The visitors can see how a traditional tandoor and an old mill work, savour tea or coffee on an open veranda, pray at the mosque, browse through books at the library, visit a bird den, or just play and relax, immersed in the local environment and culture. They can also participate in the Kem Festival, Students Children Festival, Story-Writing Competition, Gastronomic Competitions and daily workshops on local music, dance and art classes.
Winner of Silletto Prize 2021, European Museum of the Year Awards
The success in engaging the local community and demonstrating how cultural projects can regenerate rural social and economic life has been recognized by the European Museum Forum, awarding the Museum with Silletto Prize 2021.
The success story of the Museum has also been documented in 2022 (Bir Sahiplenme Hikayesi / Journey to Cultural Heritage), which premiered at a gala event in Istanbul on 24th of February 2022 and is being streamed in various leading TV channels.
The Future of Bayburt
The museum’s goal is to maintain its core values and vision on creating a social mindset that protects the historical/cultural values of its region and transfers to the next generations with an “owner” mindset whilst encouraging future generations to set roots in the area and create an opportunistic environment in the east.
The museum also wishes Bayburt to become a tourist destination in Turkey, through continuing projects and collaborations with museums/entities within the EU and around the World.
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