Project Manager:     

Prof. Dr. Filiz Yenişehirlioğlu, Koç University VEKAM

Project Executive:   

Alev Ayaokur, Koç University VEKAM

Description of the Project


With the beginning of the National Struggle, Ankara entered a different period in the course of its history. Following this development, especially politically, socially, and economically, it became the “scene” of the country which was in the process of being established. Through its architecture, education, health, organization, and local administration, the capital also acted as a role model for the developing cities of Anatolia. Existing literature generally refers to this era as “the Early Republican Period,” and makes it the subject of research. As the research field of the foundation of a country, Ankara has been the focus of many case studies.

The discipline of architecture brings the Early Republican Period all the way up to the 1940s, whereas many social science disciplines often stretch this era all the way to 1950, because of the breaking point created by the transition to the multi-party system and by the Democratic Party rule and in reference to the social impact of these.

In the 1950s, the economic, social, political and cultural structuring that arrived alongside the Democratic Party rule was different than that of the Early Republican Period, and this time around, the scene was not limited to Ankara, and the impact spread centrally to all cities of the country. Hence, because not every new and original thing built after this period had a role model, it appeared in literature less frequently. Naturally, the contribution of the Early Republican Period to the “model city” in terms of transportation, institutional and technical infrastructure meant that Ankara experienced many novelties that arrived to the country in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s before other cities. along with the increase of population that was not part of the planning of the capital, the industrialization process, the city appearing as a construction zone, the American influence, and migration; the transformation in cultural codes will put “transforming Ankara” in the literature, even if this is limited in extent.

It is also possible to see the reflections of this transformation in the newspapers and magazines of the period. The political tension that grew toward the end of the 1970s, created yet another breaking point for both for the country and its capital starting in 1980. In the light of neoliberal policies, the political, social, economic, and cultural developments were different those of the pre-1980 period, and the literature studies this period in the framework of these political theories.

The 1950-1980 period appears in biographies and memoirs through some testimonies, while the Early Republican Period features in them predominantly. However, as dictated by the differences mentioned above, the 1950-1980 period emphasizes the regular or ordinary city life. As such, it has a limited scope and position in the literature, the archives, and the collections. The Foundation Period, which is also referred to as a “miracle,” is primarily archival material, and its acquisition and conservation are additionally important. Although the period from 1950 to 1980 features elements that could be considered “nostalgic,” these have not made it the archives systematically and consistently, because the period is relatively closer and more accessible, because generations that lived it are still alive—because memories are for the most part maintained privately by their owners and not shared—because printed media from the era is assumed to be accessible even if its availability is limited, archiving in institutional structures is limited in extent, and what does get archived cannot be shared due to the exercise of royalty and other rights. The elements of the period in question have not yet gained a quality of “museum pieces,” although they have created feelings of nostalgia, but they have made their way into the memories of the individuals who witnessed the period. As far as the market is concerned, not being “museum pieces” is equivalent to not yet being an “antique,” and hence people will act quite selectively when it comes to introducing artifacts from the period into the market. The post-1980 period is different in terms of accessibility on account of the communication possibilities brought by advanced technological infrastructure.

Besides, second-hand book merchants, antique dealers, and collectors who are the major players of the artifacts market refer to the 1950-1980 interval as “the lost era.” The first era made its way into the archives, museums, and collections, the 1980s are readily accessible, but the 1950-1980 period has not yet surfaced. Dealers of second-hand books would have said that these are “reserved with the owner.”


The project focuses on the 1950 to 1980 interval, which is known as “the lost era” of Ankara. Compared to the Early Republican Period, this era is more accessible due to the availability of material cultural elements and testimonies from the time; however, as mentioned in the introduction, it is bound to disappear, to erode, to be remembered less and less vividly in time because it has not been systematically transferred to archives or museums, and because of its messy nature. This research project aims to identify and record urban narratives as well as the “archival” and “museum piece” elements associated with the city for the period in question.

The first stage of the project involves locating in the relevant literature such as periodicals, memoirs, biographies, sources of city history, and in archival and museum collections, those elements concerning the city from 1950 to 1980, which have “left a mark in the memories.” The second stage involves conducting interviews with individuals who have witnessed the period firsthand, and to access material culture elements that reflect the common urban heritage of the period via photographs, ephemera, letters, and objects in their possession.

The first stage will make it possible to set up the second, which will provide clues to answer the question “what could be recorded in memories?” and it will guide the preparation of the semi-structured interview.


Aims of the Project

  • To determine what elements of the material culture have been recorded in the existing literature concerning Ankara for the period under scrutiny.
  • To record the city’s potential memory, which has not been compiled in institutional archives and which is at risk of being lost, and to record the concrete and material evidence of this memory.
  • To identify the material cultural elements of Ankara that have been confined to personal memory and compare these with the relevant literature.
  • To make available for research all the recorded data concerning Ankara for that period, and to provide resources for urban research to this end.
  • To set an example for all city archives through a novel collection development methodology.
  • To reveal the hidden memory of the city, to make it memorable again, and to contribute to the awareness of urbanity.
  • To inform the public in the light of findings acquired through outcomes of the project such as exhibitions, publications, digital collections, workshops, etc.


Goals of the Project

The primary concrete objective of the project is to record the urban elements of Ankara’s memory from 1950 to 1980, to make them available for research and to transmit them to future generations. The general goal is to ensure that the awareness of urbanity in society is supported with awareness in a way that encourages each individual to share their common heritage concerning the city. The project itself and the activities to be carried out as part of it will contribute to sustaining awareness concerning the preservation of the city’s heritage.

Target Audience of the Project

The primary target audience is the public. The project will “inform” the younger section of the public that has not experienced the Ankara of the period, while it will “remind” the older section of the public with firsthand experience of the period.

The secondary target audience is the research community. As stated in the introduction, the aim is to create an open research database for the period from 1950 to 1980, which is known as the “lost era” with reference to the materials that have not yet seen the light of day.

The tertiary target audience are academic establishments involved in conducting studies on memory, NGOs, centers, other institutions, and individuals. The aim is developing a methodology and execution process for this target audience, and to guide them.