Empty Fields

Salt Galata

April 6 – June 5, 2016

Merzifon'daki Anadolu Koleji önünde Batı Türkiye Misyonu Prof. Manissadjian öğrencileriyle, Merzifon, tarihi bilinmiyor 
United Church of Christ (UCC), American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT), SALT Araştırma
Prof. J. J. Manissadjian with his students, Merzifon, Turkey, date unknown
United Church of Christ (UCC), American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT), SALT Research
Empty Fields is the first exhibition to explore the archive of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), and the Protestant mission work in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. The exhibition is shaped around the inventory catalog of more than a century-old natural science collection of the Museum of Anatolia College, Merzifon, Turkey. Unique for its time, the museum was developed as a result of the college’s mission that brought together a multidisciplinary humanities curriculum with fieldwork in the Anatolian landscape. The collection amassed more than 7,000 artifacts under the curatorship of Prof. Johannes “John” Jacob Manissadjian, an Armenian-German scientist, botanist, and plant collector, whose work included specimen exchanges with international institutions. Prof. Manissadjian’s hand-written inventory identified all the specimens including the eighteen showcases of the museum, often with detailed descriptions. Completed by 1918, his last curatorial act became his first archival act: This taxonomic museum catalog attests to a cohesive collection of the world. It also simultaneously foresaw the inevitable dispersal of its artifacts following Aghed [The Catastrophe], 1915. The college lost its Armenian and Greek staff and students and closed in the following years.

By situating the traces of the dispersed museum within the contexts provided by the archive and the contemporary cultural institution, Empty Fields highlights the layered frameworks of museological, geo-politicized space in an attempt to face the irretrievability of a particular period in history, and to open up discussions about contemporary and future conditions of loss and displacement—unpredictable, unknown fields still to be cataloged and acted upon. The exhibition takes the archive’s empty data fields as its structuring guidelines and suggests that they stand for markers of ontological and epistemological areas of study left blank by the effects of the catastrophe.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a public program and an e-publication. A set of lectures and articles aim to bring contemporary perspectives to the concepts of collection-in-exile, the agencies of the archives and museological histories in post-catastrophic events.

The project is made possible through the partnership of SALT, that has been cataloging and digitizing the archive of ABCFM also known as American Board Archives, and the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT), the archive’s caretaker. In 2014 SALT sought the assistance of Marianna Hovhannisyan during the process of cataloging this multilingual archive and subsequently commissioned her to curate an exhibition that reflects on the contemporary agency of the available content. Hovhannisyan’s residency at SALT was supported by the Hrant Dink Foundation Turkey-Armenia Fellowship Scheme funded by the European Union (2014-2015).

The word Aghed is used as articulated by Marc Nichanian.