Bașbakanlik archives

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This collection of papers from the Ottoman Empire is one of the world's major archives. NOTE: The reading room is moving to Bab-i Ali in fall/winter 2008.

Contents

Orientation

Coordinates

Address

Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü
Osmanlı Arşivi Daire Başkanlığı
Ticarethane Sokak No:12
34410 Sultanahmet-İSTANBUL

Website

http://www.devletarsivleri.gov.tr (in Turkish)

Telephone

(+90 212) 526 20 01 (direct line)
(+90 212) 513 88 70-72 (switchboard 3 lines)

Fax

(+90 212) 511 75 86

Email

osmanli@basbakanlik.gov.tr

Schedule & hours

Reading room is open 08:30 - 19:00.

Documents can be ordered and viewed whenever the reading room is open, but can only be delivered or returned between 08:30 and 16:00.

The reading room is open on Saturday until 17:00 but documents cannot be delivered or returned on Saturdays.

The archives is closed on Sundays and official holidays.

Working language(s)

Modern Turkish is pretty necessary, though some staff members speak some English, Arabic, and other languages.

Layout

The new archive buildings, since summer 2009, is at the Istanbul Valiligi complex, inside the Bab-i Ali. The old site, on Ticarethane street, is now used only for administration. On the new site, there are three buildings: the northwestern building contains the registration office, bathrooms, and administration. In the southeastern building, the ground floor houses computers for digital document viewing and ordering, while the upper floor is the reading room for paper documents. The northern, smallest building contains the cashier's office, for buying photocopies, as well as bookstore for archive publications.

Directions

The archives are housed within the Istanbul Governorate complex in Fatih. The Gülhane tram stop is very close by.

Holdings

Description of holdings

The archives holds some 100 million documents, as well as 150,000 registers.

History of the archive

(previous location(s) of collection held there, and any information that might help researchers to navigate previous systems)

Catalogues & finding aids

The key resource is the Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi Rehberi (2nd ed, 2000, 558 pp.), available from the bookstore in the basement. This guide is the key to the various finding aids shelved at the back of the reading room. Some (but not all) of these aids, in turn, have been made available in the searchable online catalogue: http://www.devletarsivleri.gov.tr/katalog/. About ten percent of holdings are catalogued in this way, with new material added every day.
Current cataloguing proceeds by provenance, according to the (changing) administrative structures of the Empire. Previous cagalogues still in use include the Cevdet catalogue (topical, subdivided by interior, exterior, economic, and so on) and the Ali Emiri catalogue (chronological by Sultan). Both of these catalogues are integrated into the online catalogue. Original Ottoman classification catalogues are currently being transliterated into Modern Turkish and added to the online catalogue.

Languages of materials

Most of the material is in Ottoman Turkish, but there is a good deal of material in Arabic and French, as well as other languages.

Restrictions & difficulties

Classified material

Inaccessible material

Future of the archive

Research procedures

Access

A passport is all that is needed, and the reader's card is delivered quickly and easily. You do not need to hold a research or study visa--a tourist visa is sufficient.

First visit

The security guard ushers you to the registration office, which is to your right as you enter the building. You fill in a form with identity information and a general description of your research topic and time period. Bring a photograph, which will be attached to your reader's card. You are then taken upstairs to the reading room, where a worker gives you a brief introduction to the computerized catalogue.

Permitted and prohibited items

(if possible, account for laptop computers, cameras, scanners, phones, pens and pencils, loose papers, and so on)

  • Permitted: laptop computers, cameras (but must notify staff and pay for any pictures taken)
  • Prohibited: scanners

Document ordering

Document request form (click to enlarge)
Documents are ordered using this form, which you fill in duplicate. You can order 25 documents per day, as well as a much smaller number of registers.

Many documents have been digitized and can be read on the screens of computer terminals in the archive. This collection includes 58,000 Hatt-i Humayun, 2,000 financial registers, and new material being added daily. These items can be printed from the screen.

Ordering classified material

(what special permission is necessary?)

Document delivery

Documents which are requested before 10:00 a.m. by completing the appropriate “Document Request Forms” will be made available at 14:00 p.m. on the same day; while documents which are requested in the afternoon till 16:00 will be made available at 09:00 a.m. the following day.(how long does it take for documents to arrive? where are they delivered? how many can you consult at a time? what do you do when you are finished with an item?)

Photocopying, photography, microfilming

(what are costs, permits, and page limits? how long do you have to wait?)

Key forms

(what are the main forms that the archive uses? if possible, provide links to copies or post copies directly)

Key individuals

Archive staff

(people you've found particularly helpful; no invective)

Scholars

(scholars who are familiar with this archive)

Bibliography

(published works based on research at this archive)

Practicalities

Food

Enjoy tea in the pleasant garden. Lunch can be had on the sixth floor.

Lockers

There are small lockers on the main floor. Pick up a key at the security desk.

Accessibility

The following information comes from an H-Turk discussion about wheelchair access in March 2010:

I think it is actually fairly accessible assuming that one gets oneself there. The archive itself is on the ground floor, perhaps a couple of steps up (there may in fact be a ramp alternative, but i am not sure). There are always attendants and security people who would be helpful in getting someone up and down these few steps if there is not a ramp. It is a closed stack system, so one looks up everything in the main room and then turns in requests to the clerk, so once you are in the main room, which is all one level, it is all accessible. There are some catalogs/indexes placed up high. Again for these, the clerks and attendants would provide help. So I would say that the situation is not ideal, but certainly very possible.

The metro gets one fairly close to the location of the archive. As is the case with most Turkish streets, it would be very hard, if not impossible, to navigate on a wheelchair by oneself. I would suggest a taxi from the metro stop to the archive if your student is planning to travel alone. As you might already know, the fact is that most Turkish streets are not accessible (even the parts that pretend to be accessible actually are near impossible to negotiate, ramps are usually too steep, too dangerous, curb access ramps impossible, etc.) and one can find oneself in very awkward and dangerous situations trying to navigate in a wheelchair. I would recommend a travel/research partner to accompany your student. If someone else is helping navigate the wheelchair, things would be much more doable.

It is also possible that the student might be able to hire someone to help him/her during his/her research in Ankara for a relatively low hourly fare. The folks at ARIT may be able provide some assistance/ideas in this and similar matters. Unfortunately, their hostel is not fully accessible (architects!), even though it has an elevator...

(another response:)

Unless the employees of the Basbakanlik are willing to be flexible, it will probably be quite difficult. The new location (as of two years ago) is in a building up on a road with an incline. It is an older building with numerous thresholds, door stoops and/or steps to manage. I would think next to impossible for wheelchairs. There are multiple staircases, the most important of which is a very steep one connecting the computer room (where searches/orders are made) with the reading room. Even if perhaps the employees might agree to bring material outside the reading room to the computer room (and that is a very big if), just getting into the building would mean navigating multiple small staircases. (And the old archive location a few blocks away, whatever services may be there, is much the same way).

(finally this summary response from Amy Singer:)

Second, since I received a lot of up-to-date information on this matter, I thought it might be helpful to repost a summary for the benefit of the entire list. The postings were accompanied roughly equally by optimistic and pessimistic overall assessments, but I have tried to eliminate these in favor of as much concrete information as possible. One of the more optimistic letters came from a colleague who also uses a wheelchair.

What seems to be relatively certain, however, is that there are certain logistics of moving around Istanbul which are a challenge for anyone. Arriving at the archives facility at all will require a taxi or car. Another certainty, repeated by everyone, is that the staff of the grounds (guards, etc.) and the archives together are likely to be very sympathetic and helpful to anyone arriving in a wheelchair, in particular as concerns making physical passage possible wherever realistic. (See below for details.) A few people also suggested that someone arriving in a wheelchair should probably come with an assistant, at least for the first visit and possibly for more.

  • Access to the location of the Archives*

Reading rooms of the Başbakanlık Arşivi have been transferred to the premises of the Governor's office lately. The building is very close to the tram station; though public transportation is not easy for a person in a wheelchair in Istanbul. If one needs to access by car, he/she needs to explain the situation to the police officer on the road. They are usually helpful, though. There is no parking space, so a taxi might be more convenient. The metro gets one fairly close to the location of the archive. As is the case with most Turkish streets, it would be very hard, if not impossible, to navigate on a wheelchair by oneself. I would suggest a taxi from the metro stop to the archive if your student is planning to travel alone. As you might already know, the fact is that most Turkish streets are not accessible (even the parts that pretend to be accessible actually are near impossible to negotiate, ramps are usually too steep, too dangerous, curb access ramps impossible, etc.) and one can find oneself in very awkward and dangerous situations trying to navigate in a wheelchair.

The street within Babıali behind the main gate is laid in cobblestones, though not very coarse ones. There is a security check just behind the main gate which is easily accessible via a ramp. Then one has to cross the street to come to the archives. There are four buildings making up the public part of the archive: An administrative building where one registers, the cafeteria, another building where you pay for scans and reproductions, finally the building with the reading rooms.

  • The main archive building* is a 2-storey building. One must browse catalogues and use the computers for ordering documents (it's all digital), which arrive next day on the upper floor. One looks up everything in the main room on the entrance floor and then turns in requests to the clerk, so once you are in the main room, which is all one level, it is all accessible. There are some catalogs/indexes placed up high. Again for these, the clerks and attendants would provide help. The archival building shows signs of care for people with a wheel-chair. It should be easy to get in the entrance hall and the ground-floor reading room with the catalogues and the intra-net computers, as from the street to these spaces all steps have been leveled by ramps. I have detected a single doorstep that has not, but it is not very high (something between 5 and 8 cm, I would reckon). Therefore, it is possible to access the catalogues and all those documents already available on-line on the intra-net almost without assistance.

Access to the cloak room and, much more importantly, to the reading room in the first floor, however, are impossible. The first is probably no big issue, the second is. The reading room is on the second floor. In order to get there one climbs a nice metal 19-century staircase, which however is very steep. It will be nearly impossible/or very dangerous for someone in a chair to get there. The main question is whether the staff would be willing to accomodate someone by bringing documents that are not yet scanned downstairs. [*I received one reply from someone who had worked on paper documents downstairs at a time when no other researchers were present and the staff were short-handed. So there does seem to be some precedent. -AS*]

  • The administration office* where one registers is in a separate building = more stairs. As far as I can tell, the administrative building is not accessible via wheelchair. The registration therefore would pose a problem but I imagine that Gönül Hanım, who is currently in charge of the process, would be helpful. She generally is.
  • Kitap satış yeri/fotokopi* and *çay bahcesi* are very nearby in separate buildings, but yet again more stairs to get to them. The *cashier’s office* is not accessible with a wheel-chair.

The *cafeteria* is no problem, it is easily accessible on the ground-floor. The same holds true for the toilets, located on the ground floor of the administrative building but with a separate entrance. In the male section [*this remark from a male colleague -AS*] doors to the cabins are, however, quite narrow and none of the cabins is really spacious.

Washrooms

Transportation

Internet access

Funding

Bookstore

There is a bookstore in the basement, in the same room where you pay photocopy fees. A good number of publications of the archives are available here, including the Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi Rehberi.

Terminology

dosya = box.

See also

  • http://www.byegm.gov.tr/statearchives/guide.htm gives information about the archives in English, and includes a number of photographs of the reading rooms and stacks.
  • Christopher Markiewicz wrote an update about the Basbakanlik archives on March 15, 2013, at the Dissertation Reviews website [1].
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