Topkapı Palace Museum, establishment at Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, the site of a vast variety of works of art including countless treasures of the Ottoman dynasty. One of the leading and richest museums in the world, it won the inaugural Vehbi Koç Award in 2002 for its effective role in promoting Turkish culture and history, organizing scholarly conferences, adopting innovative steps to transform in line with contemporary approaches to museum management and taking urgent measures in the wake of the August 17, 1999 earthquake.
Erected by Mehmed II (the Conqueror) between 1460 and 1478, and expanded by other sultans, Topkapı Palace served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and the official residence of Ottoman emperors for nearly 380 years until Abdülmecid (r. 1839-61) moved to Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856.
It was first opened to visitors as a museum during the reign of Abdülmecid when the British Ambassador was shown around the treasury. In time, it became customary to do so, and glazed showcases to protect these articles were constructed under Abdülaziz (r. 1861-76). The proposal to open the Imperial Treasury to visitors twice a week after the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Monarchy was never actually carried out. A decree issued in April 1924 brought the palace under the Istanbul Directorate of Antiquities, and following some minor repairs and administrative reorganization, the Topkapı Palace Museum opened on October 9, 1924. Comprehensively restored after decades of repairs, the palace today operates under the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The Topkapı Palace Museum starts at the Second Courtyard accessed through the Gate of Salutation. Royal carriages from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are on display in the Imperial Stables. This courtyard also houses the Domed Chamber where Turkish tiles are displayed, and the Imperial Treasury which holds weaponry. The china section of the Imperial Kitchens is one of the richest in the museum. Porcelains from China constitute one of the rarest collections in their field in the world, along with Japanese, European and Ottoman porcelain all of which were in use in the court. The confectionery section of the kitchen displays the metal pots and pans, coffee sets and gilded utensils used in daily life.
The Gate of Felicity leads to the Third Courtyard; to the left is the Dormitory of the White Eunuchs where embroideries are currently on display. The Dormitory of the Campaigners is the site of imperial garments, while the Butler’s Dormitory houses the permanent exhibition of imperial portraits. The two most important spaces in the Third Courtyard are the Treasury and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle. The Treasury contains a wide range of objects, including everyday items of gold and silver adorned with a variety of precious stones, sultans’ aigrettes, throne hangings, richly decorated weaponry such as sword sheaths, bow cases, quivers and coats of armor, shisha pipes, oil lamps, writing sets, unpolished precious stones, the famous Spoonmaker’s Diamond and a variety of thrones. The Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, in the meanwhile, displays a large number of sacred items brought back from Egypt by Selim I (the Grim), including the Prophet Mohammad’s mantle. The Third Courtyard is also home to a large imperial tent, a number of clocks and calligraphic works.
In addition to these sections displaying specific items, many other parts of the palace are open as museum-spaces, the most important of which is the Harem comprising some 400 rooms scattered around long, narrow corridors and compact courtyards. The Audience Chamber, the Library of Ahmed III, the Circumcision Room, and the Baghdad, Revan and Sofa Pavilions show diverse aspects of Ottoman court life.