Why Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence is relevant now and Museumand: Nottingham’s museum without walls about Caribbean people and Culture

Featured Image: Orhan Pamuk’s Museum Of Innocence in Çukurcuma, Istanbul

Museums are like cultural tardises, with and without walls, they are the solids, liquids and oxygen that helps us to breathe….

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Above photos of the area where Pamuk set and created the novel and museum 1969 2013…it became part of a renaissance and regeneration of the area, where personal and cultural memorabilia begin to replace the wider, longer, Ottoman memory…

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Above, left, photo 1890’s of the district in Istanbul taken by the famous Abdullah Brothers and on the right the way it looks today….

As he wrote the love story of Kemal and Fusan, Pamuk became the architect of a real museum in Çukurcuma. The book was published in 2008, the museum opened in 2012.

Pamuk wanted his story to become real, he also wanted to experiment with history, memory, journey and fiction. The story became real with 83 chapters: 83 boxes: what we’d call cabinets.

For example: chapter 7: Mohammed’s Apartment actually exists in the museum

In Pamuk’s novel, Kemal is in love with a (twice removed) cousin, from a different background. Her name is Fusan.

They’re in love but separated by time, class, culture and politics. Kemal loses and finds Fusan, loses and finds Fusan, all the time observing the sadness and loss of what can’t be as he’s allowed back into her life to visit her in the evenings. Every meeting Kemal takes something from Fusan’s house.

Every time Kemal takes something though, you also realise that Orhan Pamuk has found something in Turkish life because it goes into the museum.

For example a quince grinder.

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In the story there’s a curfew and people could be mistreated if they’re around after 11pm. As Kemal would steal from Fusan every evening, on one occasion he leaves the house late and has hidden a quince grinder in his jacket. He’s frisked and manhandled by the police and the quince grinder becomes a memorable object in the museum.

This idea of objects and places triggering the imagination of novelists and ordinary members of the public where this to-ing and fro-ing  produces a new way of looking at objects and currencies and exchanges of all kinds, is an opportunity for change

On each of the visits where Kemal takes something from the house, Pamuk, meanwhile, had started to plan the rundown building in Istanbul he’d bought in 1998 and began to consider how these objects, stolen from Fusan’s home, artefacts created through their meetings, might figure in a real museum.

It’s a real story in itself: Quince grinder…curfew…stolen from Fusan’s house.. Pamuk used it to show what happened to people after  11pm… police questioning him about the quince grinder….

In a way all memory is like theft: what makes a collection? Can a collection ever be uncontested?

A beautiful film about the museum:  ‘Innocence of Memories 1974-end of the 1980s” came out in 2015

‘There is a story to tell every time people and objects meet’ Orhan Pamuk

Stories exist within time…

‘This is why we have to create the atmosphere, the drama, the theatricality of the object’s moment….’ Orhan Pamuk, Turkish Noble laureate

‘….that time I bought that white handbag, that time I picked up that salt shaker, that time I dropped this earring…that time I saw this newspaper, that time I kicked this red ball…that time I wound that clock…that time I looked at this view…there is always a story to tell. I was looking out of the window when I saw this crow. I was crying while I washed my hands in this sink . I thought of her while I looked at this ship…I was in love when I picked up this cigarette butt, and another cigarette butt and another and another and all those cigarettes are like a calendar for the museum, a timeline of Kemal’s and Fusun’s love story….’

Above still from Best In Heritage the Museum of Innocence

To me this is an ineffable memorial to the holocaust and religion: how things signify, a detail becoming real and universal through attention and care…

Pamuk  bought the  building with the idea of converting it  into a museum much like the visionary way John Soane had challenged social mores at a time of great social change, taking two Georgian houses and converting them into his museum of wonders in London.

And Pamuk was literally building out of fiction: setting the imaginary story of an imaginary family in the run down neighbourhood which slowly regenerated in parallel to the changes of the city.

Left: the first floor stairs of the Museum of Innocence on the right the first floor stairs of the Sir John Soane Museum, Lincoln’s Inns Fields

The Museum of Innocence contains photos, landscapes,  pictures: excerpts from istanbul films,  newspapers, utensils, pottery,  jewellery,  soap, playing cards, toys, food, liquor bottles, govt forms, id forms, everything  necessary to live in Istanbul……

What is this museum? It’s ambient, atmospheric, Pamuk drew the designs and sometimes it worked.

In 2015 Grant Gee made a fictive documentary about Pamuk’s book/museum called the Innocence of Memories:

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When people and objects meet there’s always a story to tell:


Every moment connects to an object and if you connect them you create a story

Imagine a place where the stories of your family came to life.

Above Museumand logo designed by John Daniel artJohn Daniel art below, Vanley Burke Birmingham Photographer and one of his famous images:  Boy With Flag Linda Burrell and Catherine Ross founders of Museumand, Catherine with Chris Teasdale of Caravan Gallery during their recent Sneinton project. Tony Kofi, acclaimed saxophonist from Nottingham, Jasmin Isaaka, local visionary graphic artist, Stephanie Palmer of Wellbeing and You (caring for the people who care for others)

Like Orhan Pamuk and John Soane but closer to home, in Nottingham, Linda Burrell and Catherine Ross have created Museumand, the African Caribbean Museum without boundaries and walls.

The Museum Without Walls is a museum for the person, not the power. The belief that drives Linda and Catherine is small is beautiful but also objects and memories of African Caribbean people are everywhere. Museumand is a two way process, exploring people and their lives:understanding institutions through people, their lives, travails and memories.

Museumand chronicles of the journey of African Caribbean people: documenting and connecting with more schools, colleges, universities, factories, churches, more of the time.

Every area that has a Caribbean connection: however obtuse, obscure or previously obscured. When someone passes on you may find memorabilia that your loved one treasured but that you just don’t know, understand or have the space for. Museumand can help:

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Volunteer: assist the museum to find and keep local records and things you value and want to share.

Research local street names,  (this is amazing) help find  the history behind street and place names, find out who lived on your street.

Tell your story. What is/was it like at home, play, school, work in Britain as a member of the Caribbean community?

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Curious? Also,  If you’d like to find out more about Caribbean people, culture and the contribution Caribbean people make in Nottingham and further afield contact Catherine and Linda sknheritagemuseum@outlook.com

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Turkey and Jamaica: part of the jigsaw of our world that we’re piecing together, story by story

The distance between Jamaica and Turkey is 10,584 km= 6,577 miles. If you travel by air (average speed of 560 miles) from Jamaica to Turkey, It will take 11.74 hours to arrive.

Taking a long view, which is what museums help us to do, between 2001 and 2016 Turkey’s economy grew from $196.1b to $733.6b which means it grew 200 per cent. The Jamaican economy in the same period grew 52 percent. Source The Gleaner sourced IMF

Museums, heritage and valuing culture in its widest sense means regeneration!



3 thoughts on “Why Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence is relevant now and Museumand: Nottingham’s museum without walls about Caribbean people and Culture

  1. I love Pamuk’s writing and have long been a fan, but didn’t know about the Museum of Innocence, so many thanks for introducing me to this wonderful whimsical project!


    1. ‘the distance between Jamaica and Turkey is 10,584 km= 6,577 miles. If you travel by air (average speed of 560 miles) from Jamaica to Turkey, It will take 11.74 hours to arrive’ this is just the sort of random trivia that keeps Cyril Seaton’s Cycle Roots amused!


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