The Story of the Manisaciyan Collection from the 1800s to Present-Day Tarsus Campus

 

Serving education for 133 years in Tarsus, one of the oldest settlements in Anatolia, Tarsus American College, is a strong advocate for the preservation of the unique history of its location.

 

With the emphasis placed on history and national values, the time-revered institution ensured that the entomology collection samples sent to the school from Merzifon as early as 1938 have survived to today. These historic relics, which were able to reach the school despite the destruction of war, were sorted and saved many years later thanks to the concerted efforts of the school’s graduates. This entomology collection, which sheds light on history, is now ready to meet with visitors in the “Natural Sciences Research Center” of Sadik Pasa Mansion, located in our greater campus. The story of this collection of minerals, rocks and fossils, brought together with a monumental effort which started in 1800s and extended to present day and our historical campus in Tarsus, is featured in the February issue of Atlas magazine...

 

 

Photo caption: The drawers which hold the entomological samples collected by Manisacıyan, located in Tarsus American College (above). The remaining samples from the natural history museum sent to this school from Merzifon in 1938. On the left are fossil samples, in center the cabinets which contain fossil and entomology collection, on the right are cabinets containing rock and mineral samples. The collection which was stored in quire bad circumstances were organized in 2019.

 

...Manisacıyan left Turkey in 1923 after the destructive atmosphere of the WW1, leaving the museum catalogue, as precious as the collection itself, to the future safeguards of the museum before he left. This unique catalogue may have been the most comprehensive and best kept natural history museum archive record which remained from the Ottoman period.

 

In my preliminary research, we realized that some remnants of the museum was abandoned in poor conditions under the stairs in school as was informed by TAC’s 1968 graduates, Şeref Etker, Semih Bilgin and Nihat Taner. We went to Tarsus upon the invitation of the graduates, starting to work on sorting the collection and gathering the items under an appropriate exhibition area.

 

The state of the collection, which had been compiled since 1890s was really sad. These samples, collected from sites through massive efforts, should have been stored at least in a guarded area. As a result of our sorting work, we were able to save the entomology collection inside the original museum cabinets which came from Merzifon and a part of the collection comprised of minerals, rocks and fossils. Although the butterflies and bugs collected by Manisacıyan himself were keeping their original colors, some samples were destroyed as a result of poor storage conditions. In 2019, we have submitted to the officials in the school the collection we have compiled from the remaining samples to lay the foundation for a new natural history museum in Sadık Paşa Mansion, located on the school campus. Currently this area, under the name of Natural Sciences Research Center, is waiting to be actively used as allowed by the limitations of the pandemic.

 

A WAIT WHICH LASTED FOR 200 YEARS

 

Çihacof, Dr. Abdullah Bey, Manisacıyan and many more researchers and enthusiasts whose names are not included here have worked ardently as natural history devotees who recorded the earth/terrain of Anatolia. Although we were able to save a part of the pieces left from Merzifon, we do not have a natural history museum which would contain the knowledge and items collected with modern naturalists who have been to every inch of the Anatolian land for about 200 years and which will be a reference/source.

 

The attempts to build a natural history museum, which have been an unfinished business since the Ottoman times, continue today under the stewardship of various institutions today. Institutions such as MTA Şehit Cuma Dağ Tabiat Müzesi (Ankara), which is currently the largest one in our country with the fossil, rock, mineral samples collected from around Turkey and the world, İhsan Ketin Natural History Museum and Saint Joseph Natural Sciences Center (İstanbul), Ege University Natural History Museum (İzmir) and Kemaliye Ali Demirsoy Natural History Museum (Erzincan) are frequently visited by students and enthusiasts. Although some of these institutions conduct significant research, the lack of natural history museums and museum networks which comprise all branches of natural sciences, which have their own independent research institute with a collection which can be referenced in national and international indexes still is an important void at a time of mass destruction which is a scene to successive climate, environment and ecological crises.


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