The Lady Sultans Museum
From Yesterday to Today
Üsküdar is one of Istanbul’s three most important settlements known as “bilâd-ı selâse” -- the three towns --, the other two being Galata and Eyüp. These three towns particularly excelled in trade, law, culture, arts and endowments. The interest that the Ottoman lady sultans showed in Üsküdar was also due to the special position this district occupied in the history of the city. It is thanks to this strong interest spread over several centuries that we are able to see mosques and fountains in numerous quarters of Üsküdar today.
As we deepened our research into this legacy, a significant amount of historical data, on the lady sultans in particular, began to accumulate. And we wanted to process this data in a way that would turn it into a tangible and lasting cultural and artistic value.
We, as the Üsküdar Municipality, have previously collaborated with the Beylerbeyi Sabanci Technical Institute to produce male and female scribe dolls, the scribe (kâtip) being a symbol of Üsküdar. Since that first project received a great deal of public attention, we decided to go on to make a collection of the Ottoman lady sultans with the same artistic approach.
The first step in this direction was setting up an academic research committee under the chairmanship of Assoc. Prof. Selman Can from Marmara University’s Department of Art History. Garments used in the Ottoman harem from the 16th to the 19th century were meticulously identified with academic rigor, and then came the phase of determining the materials to be used. All of the authentic fabrics were custom made to order. A team of eight specialists worked for two months in their workshop to sew the fabrics and make the accessories and the jewelry. Tragacanth, still used in Anatolia for doll making, was the main material used for the dolls in this project as well. At every stage of the work, we took great care to do everything in keeping with the spirit of museology.
We have created a collection of dolls that reflect the historical characters of numerous lady sultans who left indelible marks in Üsküdar. And what has eventually emerged is a collection that reflects both the daily life and the palace life of the Ottomans. Then, we added new characters to this collection and decided to open a museum. An elegant museum where history and art meet, the Üsküdar Lady Sultans Museum has opened its doors to visitors of all ages.