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Sadberk Hanım Museum

Sadberk Hanım Museum

Sadberk Hanım Museum

Sadberk Hanım Museum, full name THE VEHBI KOÇ FOUNDATION SADBERK HANIM MUSEUM, Turkey’s first private museum opened on October 14, 1980 at the building known as the Azaryan Mansion in Sarıyer-Büyükdere, Istanbul, to exhibit the private collection of, and in memory of Sadberk Koç, wife of Vehbi Koç. The museum is established through a fund formed in the Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV) in 1974. 
Built at the end of the nineteenth century and purchased by Vehbi Koç in 1950, the Azaryan Yalı served as the Koç family’s summer retreat until 1977, when it was donated to the VKV for reassignment to a museum. It was converted into a museum following the restoration project during the years 1978-1980 by Sedad Hakkı Eldem

Initially consisting of traditional costumes, embroideries, tuğra-stamped silverware and china acquired by Sadberk Koç, the museum’s collection has grown in time through donations and purchases. The collection of Hüseyin Kocabaş, one of Turkey’s leading collectors, joined the Sadberk Hanım Museum collection following his death in 1983. The mansion next door, believed to date from the turn of the twentieth century, was purchased to house the archaeological artifacts in the Hüseyin Kocabaş Collection. Once its façade was restored to its original form, this annex was opened on October 24, 1988 and named after Sevgi Gönül, whose dedication to the founding and development of the museum was considerable, and who served as president of the executive committee. The Sadberk Hanım Museum won the 1988 Europa Nostra award (see Europa Nostra Awards) for the “faithful restoration and renovation, and opening up as an archaeological museum”.

The original Sadberk Koç collection contained some 3,500 pieces; today the inventory exceeds 19,000. A key feature of the museum is its constant drive to enlarge its collection. Archaeological finds representing the material heritage of Anatolian civilizations from the sixth millennium BCE through to the end of the Byzantine period are displayed in the Sevgi Gönül Building. Predominantly Ottoman Islamic artifacts as well as goods produced for the Ottomans in Europe, the Near East and the Orient, Ottoman textiles, costumes and embroidery are exhibited at the Azaryan Mansion. The museum collections are constantly enlarged through donations and purchases at home and abroad. 

The Sadberk Hanım Museum aims to gather archaeological and early Islamic pieces from the Seljuk, Ayyubi, Mamluk, Timurid and Safavid eras along with the finest examples of Ottoman art, and preserve this cultural heritage for future generations under a controlled environment.  
The Sadberk Hanım Museum today commands a distinguished position with its İznik ware, particularly tiles and ceramics from the fifteenth through to the seventeenth centuries, and Ottoman embroidery and women’s costumes; this latter collection from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the richest in the world. Constantly expanding through new acquisitions, the Ottoman textiles collection covering the period from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries also contains accessories such as embroideries, shoes, bags, hats and folding fans. The İznik ware collection is similarly expanded through purchases at domestic and foreign auctions.

The museum also displays Ottoman silver, tombak (gilded brass), brass and enamelware, Chinese celadon and porcelains, Kütahya tiles and ceramics, Çanakkale ceramics, European porcelain, Beykoz glassware, and examples of calligraphy and illumination. 
A protocol signed with the George Washington University Textiles Museum in 2017 transferred to the Sadberk Hanım Museum 69 Anatolian carpets and textiles from the eighteenth through to the twentieth centuries that had been held in the Murat Megalli collection.
In addition to the permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions on specific themes, scholarly publications and education programs aim to reach out to all sections of society; the museum serves as an education-cum-culture institution that uses contemporary museum practices to contribute to the artistic and scientific development of society, one that entertains as it informs. The Sadberk Hanım Museum also welcomes research, and by lending items to exhibitions at home and abroad, contributes to the promotion of Turkey.

The Sadberk Hanım Museum Specialist Library is an authoritative institution among specialist libraries in Turkey, holding 8,700 printed books and 640 manuscripts. Of particular significance are the rare yearbooks called sâlnâme. Restoration and conservation of the pieces in the Sadberk Hanım Museum are conducted in the museum laboratory.

The museum’s “Along to the Museum! Discover, Learn, Have Fun” project addresses children over eight years of age. A set of three educational books are published as part of this project. The two activity books entitled Sanat Tarihi (History of Art) ve Arkeoloji (Archaeology) were prepared to introduce young generations to Turkey’s natural and cultural heritage as well as raise awareness of the importance of conservation. The third book designed to support active learning informs teachers about the pieces in the museum collections. Since spring 2016, the Sadberk Hanım Museum education projects have expanded beyond school groups; they now include activities on the last Saturday of each month to reach out to more children. These sessions are booked in advance. In 2017, over 7,500 pupils attended the museum’s educational activities for children.

Hülya Bilgi has been the director of the museum since 2007.

The Sadberk Hanım Museum is a member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

Preparations to move the museum to its new site at the Golden Horn Taşkızak Shipyard are currently under way.

A Heartfelt Passion, the Sevgi Gönül Calligraphy Collection (May 26–July 25, 2004)

Reunited After Centuries: Works of Art Restored to Turkey by the Sadberk Hanım Museum (December 4, 2005–February 28, 2006)

A Treasured Memory: Ecclesiastical Silver from Late Ottoman Istanbul in the Sevgi Gönül Collection (April 15–July 2, 2006)

Prehistoric Figure Paintings (November 4–26, 2006)

The 150th Anniversary of the Crimean War (December 9, 2006–February 25, 2007)

Çatma and Kemha: Ottoman Silk Fabrics (April 15–June 10, 2007)

Ancient Drinking and Libation Vessels (December 8, 2007–March 30, 2008)

The Centenary of the Second Constitutional Monarchy (June 20–July 27, 2008)

Tailors to the Court: M. Palma-D. Lena-P. Parma (November 27, 2008–January 11, 2009)

Dance of Fire: İznik Tiles and Ceramics in the Sadberk Hanım Museum and Ömer M. Koç Collections (April 12–October 11, 2009)

Women’s Costumes from the Late Ottoman Era: The Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection (May 7–December 28, 2010)

Dynasty and the Camera: Portraits from the Ottoman Court (January 8–May 29, 2011)

Images in Clay: Ancient Terracotta Figurines in the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection (November 18, 2011–May 20, 2012)

Hand Skills Delight the Eye: Ottoman Embroideries in the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection (December 7, 2012–August 4, 2013)

Traces of Ancient Ages: Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection (December 6, 2013–May 25, 2014)

Shoes, Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection (November 27, 2014–May 31, 2015)

Jewel: Enamelled and Jewelled Objects in the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection (December 3, 2015–May 31, 2016)

Silver and Salt: Early Photographs from the Ömer M. Koç Collection: 1843-1860 (May 25–October 31, 2017)

Kütahya: The Sadberk Hanım Museum Kütahya Tile and Ceramics Collection (March 8, 2018–November25, 2018)

*All exhibition catalogs have been published.


Altun, Ara et al., Türk Çini ve Seramikleri/Turkish Tiles and Ceramics,1991

Anlağan, Çetin and Bilgi, Önder, Protohistorik Çağ Silahları/Weapons of the Protohistoric Age, 1989

Anlağan, Çetin et al., Sadberk Hanım Müzesi/Sadberk Hanım Museum, 1995

Anlağan, Tanju, Sadberk Hanım Müzesi Kalıplı Kaseler ve Kabartmalı Kaplar/Sadberk Hanım Museum Moldmade Bowls and Related Wares, 2000

Bakar, İsmail, Sadberk Hanım Müzesi Yazma Eserler Kataloğu Hüseyin Kocabaş Koleksiyonu (Sadberk Hanım Museum Written Works Catalog Hüseyin Kocabaş Collection), 1997

Bakar, İsmail, Sadberk Hanım Müzesi Kütüphanesi Yıllıklar Sâlnâmeler, Nevsâller ve Takvîmle Hüseyin Kocabaş (Sadberk Hanım Museum Library, Hüseyin Kocabaş with Annuals, Yearbooks and Calendars), 2008

Carswell, John, Çin Seramikleri: Sadberk Hanım Müzesi Koleksiyonu /Chinese Ceramics in The Sadberk Hanım Museum, 1995

Çağman, Filiz, Kat'ı-Cut Paper Works and Artists in the Ottoman World, 2016

Donbaz, Veysel, Sadberk Hanım Müzesi’nde Bulunan Çiviyazılı Tabletler/Cuneiform Texts in the Sadberk Hanım Museum, 1999

Hart, Kimberly (ed.), Giving Back the Colours: Josephine Powell Collection, 2007

Hart, Kimberly (ed.), Kilim Örnekleri/Examples from Kilims, Josephine Powell Collection, 2007

Öztuncay, Bahattin et al., İkinci Meşrutiyetin İlanının 100’üncü Yılı/100th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Constitution, 2008

Tekin, Oğuz, Sivas Definesi: VI. Mithradates Dönemi Pontos ve Paphlagonia Kentlerinin Bronz Sikkeleri/The Sivas Hoard: Bronze Coins of Pontos and Paphlagonia from the Reign of Mithradates VI, 1999

Tekin, Oğuz, Sadberk Hanım Müzesi Antik Sikkeler Kataloğu/Catalog of the Ancient Coins in the Sadberk Hanım Museum, 2003

Tezcan, Hülya, 19. Yüzyıl Sonuna Ait Bir Terzi Defteri/A Late 19th Century Tailor’s Order Book, 1992

Üçok, Ayşe, Geçmişe Bir Yolculuk (Journey to the Past), 2004

* The museum has also published the Sadberk Hanım Museum annual entitled Palmet between 1995 and 2004.


My wife Sadberk Koç always welcomed my social projects, and institutions I founded and encouraged me. “They will live on after you, and bring blessings on your memory,” she used to say. When she was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the prospect of death preyed on her mind, she frequently voiced a fear of “being forgotten.” One day she said, “I don’t want to be forgotten. I want those precious old objects I’ve collected all my life to be exhibited in a museum bearing my name. Please help me on this issue.”

After she passed away, my children and I thought long and hard about her wish. I owned an old-style waterfront mansion in Sarıyer, known as the Azaryan Mansion, built at the turn of the twentieth century. Experts studied this four-story Ottoman-European mixture and declared it suitable for conversion to a museum. It had 1,200 square meters usable area. Restorations and alterations were carried out as needed. It was equipped with advanced fire prevention systems without compromising the timber character. These preparations took some four years. At long last, the Sadberk Hanım Museum was opened by the then Minister of Culture Cihat Baban on October 14, 1980. I was relieved to have carried out my wife’s wish.

My second daughter Sevgi Gönül put her shoulder to it, and worked passionately during these preparations. The Sadberk Hanım Museum has changed and developed enormously in the intervening six or seven years. The acquisition of the Hüseyin Kocabaş Collection in 1983 enriched the museum with 9000-year-old Anatolian artifacts. The Sadberk Hanım Museum is already a major culture and arts center in Istanbul and Turkey. The rooms and halls of the country’s first private museum open to the public display silver objects, jewelry and ornaments, examples of Turkish embroideries from the sixteenth through to the eighteenth centuries, Kütahya and İznik tiles from the same time and Turkish costumes, as well as Neolithic, Early Bronze Age, Hittite, Phrygian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Seljuk, Byzantine and Ottoman objects. The museum also hosts cultural events like exhibitions, concerts, conferences, seminars and commemorations. It also participates in exhibitions and cultural events abroad. In no time at all, when the need to expand the display area arose, the building next door was purchased; construction started last year.

I believe my wife Sadberk Koç’s soul will feel at peace now. This museum will live with her name, grow even richer in the future and convey our shared feelings to the future. The only thing that gives us peace here and in the afterlife is the knowledge that we have allocated our assets to benefit the generations after us.


Vehbi Koç, Recollections, Observations, Counsel, 1973-1987, Vehbi Koç Vakfı, Istanbul, 1987, pp. 159-160

Collecting Turkish and Ottoman objects began as an accidental hobby for Sadberk Hanım, but in time grew into a disciplined, exacting passion. She frequently visited the Grand Bazaar in search of new arrivals. And the merchants got to know and respect her. As her hobby developed into genuine expertise, Sadberk Hanım became a hawk-eyed collector. She not only knew about new works of art but also what they were worth. Occasionally the children would be taken along to these Grand Bazaar “expeditions;” Suna Kıraç recalls being bored out of their minds during the heated negotiations and exchanges. All the same, many years later she would write, “Mother must have passed on to all four of us her keen judgment; we all grew into collectors. So stuck was she on this vision of a museum that she didn’t leave us a stitch!”

Sadberk Hanım now had a colossal collection kept in suitcases on the second floor. She dreamt of sharing this historic heritage with the Turkish public, yet hesitated to suggest this idea of opening a museum to her husband; on the one occasion when she had tried together with her friend, writer and fellow collector Nezihe Araz, Vehbi Koç had replied, “Why would you open a museum; if you’re after charitable works, open a hospital or a school!” That was the year Vehbi Koç had secured the permit to form the Koç Foundation, so his priority was the investment in benevolent causes. Sadberk Hanım’s personal income—the rent from the Koçtaş land—wouldn’t stretch to establishing such a museum. The money sent from the Holding only covered household expenses, and Sadberk Hanım had used her personal money to collect historical objects.

Yet this vision of a museum had become a passion for her. In a will she drew up following an illness in January 1967, she had left her daughters one million liras each (with a note saying, “an extra 100,000 for Suna for her hope chest”) and set her favorite jewel aside, “place it in my museum”. She must have despaired that there ever would be a museum in her name in this will written six years prior to her death: she asked instead for “a few trinkets” she had collected to be displayed in an annex to a museum in Ankara or Istanbul, and this pavilion to be named after her. Sadberk Hanım’s wish for her husband was that he remembers her.

When she was diagnosed with cancer six years later, she wrote a new will. This time she addresses Vehbi Koç as “my life, my husband” and continues, “Our fifty years together might come to an end. God bless you and my children. Please be very happy. As for the children: they’re the best we could have hoped for. Please forgive their faults for my sake. I give them my blessings.” Her wish about the museum is as follows: “Build my museum, and leave it to Koç Holding.” Sadberk Hanım had been fascinated by the Antonis Benakis Museum in Athens. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have her name and efforts to live on in a similar establishment!

Vehbi Koç acted after her death to carry out her wishes. Strangely, legislation proved to be an issue, and it took concerted effort by the family members for a new Act to allow private individuals to establish museums. Sadberk Hanım’s will finally broke through the misfortune that had been hampering museums in Turkey, and threw open the gates of a brand new era.

The Sadberk Hanım Museum is located at the former Azaryan Mansion, the family’s summer retreat. Following the restoration by Prof.Sedad Hakkı Eldem in the late nineteenth century mansion, which has a European vernacular style with three floors plus attic, the museum was opened on October 14, 1980, seven years after Sadberk Hanım’s death.

Sadberk Hanım’s dream had come true. The Koç family soon grew passionately fond of the museum. An additional building came into use to house the Kocabaş Collection purchased by the Koç Foundation in 1983, and it was renamed the Sevgi Gönül Building. This contribution by Sevgi Gönül was in effect fulfilling Vehbi Koç’s wishes, from “an early will” just as her mother’s, in his lifetime. The building and the restoration would later win the Europa Nostra Award in 1988.

Suna Kıraç, Ömrümden Uzun İdeallerim Var (My Ideals, Longer than My Life), Suna ve İnan Kıraç Vakfı, Istanbul, pp. 222-26
Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.