The Museum of Innocence, is a small museum both a novel written by Orhan Pamuk and a museum he made.
The painstaking attention to detail in this fascinating museum/piece of conceptual art will certainly provide every amateur psychologist with a theory or two about its creator, Nobel Prize–winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. Vitrines display a quirky collection of objects that evoke the minutiae of İstanbullu life in the mid- to late 20th century, when Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence is set.
Occupying a modest 19th-century timber house, the museum relies on its vitrines, which are reminiscent of the work of American artist Joseph Cornell, to retell the story of the love affair of Kemal and Füsun, the novel’s protagonists. These displays are both beautiful and moving. Some, such as the installation using 4213 cigarette butts, are as strange as they are powerful.
Pamuk’s ‘Modest Manifesto for Museums’ is reproduced on a panel on the ground floor. In it he asserts: ‘The resources that are channeled into monumental, symbolic museums should be diverted to smaller museums that tell the stories of individuals’. The individuals in this case are fictional, of course, and their story is evoked in a highly nostalgic fashion, but in creating this museum Pamuk has put his money where his mouth is and come out triumphant.
Hiring an audio guide (₺5) provides an invaluable commentary and is highly recommended.