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Empty Fields

April 6, 2016 – June 5, 2016

SALT Galata, Bankalar Caddesi No. 11, Karaköy

This is the first exhibition to explore the American Board Archive of the American Protestant Missionary work in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. 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 content available.

Empty Fields addresses in particular a more than a century-old natural science collection of the Museum of American Anatolia College, Merzifon, Turkey, the legacy of which is connected with its curator, the Armenian-German scientist John Manissadjian. The museum was dispersed in the years following the great catastrophe of 1915. Its original classification catalogue, with all the specimens and showcases registered and often described in fine detail by Manissadjian in 1917, was found in the American Board Archive.

Hovhannisyan’s perspective on the archive’s absent information fields, after the dispersal of the museum’s collection, suggests that they serve as markers for ontological and epistemological areas of study left blank. This strategy establishes the structure and subject of the exhibition, introducing a contemporary space for past politics and narratives of loss and displacement. The exhibition shapes this narrative by means of rare archival materials, photographs, maps, correspondences and video interviews.

The archival cataloging research of Marianna Hovhannisyan was supported at SALT by the Hrant Dink Foundation Turkey-Armenia Fellowship Scheme. American Board Archive access was made possible through the partnership of SALT and the American Research Institute in Istanbul.

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