This collection has been donated to Boğaziçi University by Aziz Ogan’s grandson, Hüseyin İnan, through the mediation of Prof. Dr. Edhem Eldem, a faculty member of the History Department. It includes valuable materials dating from the 1920s onward, which not only shed light on the development of archaeology and museology in Turkey but also render it possible for researchers to trace the cultural politics of the early Republican period that are centered around the pre-Islamic Anatolian civilizations. The most important part of the collection is comprised of the works of Ogan, which he undertook during his directorship of the İzmir Museum of Antiquities. The documents dating from this period mostly include the reports pertaining to the archaeological excavations conducted in the vicinity of İzmir, as well as reports on museums in different localities in Anatolia and notes concerning the establishment processes of the İzmir, Pergamon and Ephesus museums.
The rest of the collection includes Ogan’s correspondence dating from the time he was the acting president of the İstanbul Museums Directorship and the Committee of the Protection of Antiquities as well as the guidebooks, publications and notes he took and published on İstanbul Archaeology Museums, İstanbul’s fountains and a number of Byzantine churches such as Chora and Hagia Irene. The guidebooks and the drafts of excavation reports that Ogan prepared are particularly noteworthy. In addition, the Aziz Ogan Collection which includes Ogan’s correspondence with the Ministry of Education, İzmir’s Governorship, the Turkish Historical Society, international museums, archaeology institutions and many foreign archaeologists, notes on his visits to foreign countries as well as his diplomas, awards and many photographs and newspaper clippings, constitute an indispensable source for anyone interested in Turkey’s history of archaeology and museums.
In his autobiography of which a copy is preserved in the “biography file” of his archives, Aziz Ogan accounts his own life story as such:
“My name is Ahmed Aziz. My late father was called Hacı Ahmed Efendi. My birth place is Dersaadet [İstanbul]. My date of birth is 30th of December 1888. I received my primary and secondary education in Fatih Central Primary School, and graduated in 1903. But these diplomas of mine had perished when I moved to İzmir. I pursed the rest of my education through private means.”
Aziz Ogan, autobiographic document, undated
Aziz Ogan's interest in fine arts and archaeology had formed at a young age thanks to the painter and the founder of the museology and archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, Osman Hamdi Bey, a close friend of Ogan's father and the owner of the neighboring vineyards in Gebze. In 1910, Aziz Ogan graduated from Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (The School of Fine Arts), a school he enrolled in as a result of his keen interest. In 1907, while Ogan was still a student, he was appointed “as a museum official to the Imperial Museum with a salary of 100 kurush.”
Aziz Ogan's daughter Jale İnan, who was one of the first woman archaeologists of Turkey, narrates the following about her father:
“My father was appointed as the inspector of the İzmir Museum of Antiquities in 1914 but with the beginning of the World War I and the declaration of the military mobilization, he was drafted to the officer cadet school. After finishing his education, he served both at the Gallipoli Front and the Caucausus Front. In 1917, he was appointed by Cemal Pasha as the deputy consultant to the Museum of Antiquities established in Damascus at the behest of the Fourth Army, and as the headmaster of Damascus technical school which was under the control of the Fourth Army. (...) At the time, the German archaeologist Dr. Theodor Wiegand was the head of the archaeological organization. They had established a deep and intimate friendship in a very short period.”
Jale İnan, İstanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi, 1957, p. 173
In 1918, Aziz Ogan returned to İstanbul as soon as the war was over. According to his daughter, Ogan was welcomed by his family in the following manner:
“The first memory of my childhood is the day my father was discharged from the army and came home. On the 18th of August, 1918, I first heard the voice of my big sister: “Mom, an officer came, he wishes to speak to you.” Dad loved surprises and humor, and when he realized that my sister had not recognized him, he asked for my mom like a total stranger. We were overjoyed; we had finally reunited with our dad, and now we were finally going to go to beautiful İzmir my mother had narrated like a fairy tale. On our journey there, our train was attacked by bandits, and we were robbed of our cash and jewelry. My dad started his old job in İzmir, and he was also given classes in the first and second levels of Mekteb-i Sultani (imperial schools).”
When the World War I had ended, İzmir was under occupation. Under these conditions, Aziz Ogan couldn't start properly his duties as the inspector of İzmir Museum of Antiquities until 1922. In 1926 his inspection field was extended to “İzmir and the neighboring territory.”
As the inspector of İzmir and the neighboring areas, Ogan worked at the İzmir Museum of Antiquities, monitored the works carried out at the ruins and excavations in İzmir and the neighboring provinces and kept in constant contact with local and foreign archaeologists. During this period, he supervised the excavations of ancient cities like Sardis, Ephesus, Ayasuluk, Selçuk, Pergamon, Didyma, Miletus and conducted research on these sites, which are all very important for the ancient history of West Anatolian geography. Notably, he coordinated the transfer of the artifacts that appeared in various museums all over the country.
Aziz Ogan, who played a pivotal role in the preservation of ancient artifacts and in the development of museums, was a member of institutions such as the Turkish Historical Society, the Austrian, Czechoslovakian, Finnish and German Archaeological Institutes, the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature and the İstanbul Institute.
In addition, by contacting the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and UNESCO, Ogan initiated the first contact between the museums in İstanbul and the rest of the world.
“Aziz Ogan researched subjects that interested him and published these when he had the time. Other than the excavation reports and guides to museums and ruins, he wrote various articles on Turkey's historical artifacts, archaeological sites, excavations, the history of Turkish museums and the restoration of antiquities in many periodicals and newspapers. He was trying to ignite curiosity in public for history and antiquities.”
Jale İnan, İstanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi, 1957, p. 173
Besides the constructions of the İzmir, Ephesus, and Pergamon Museums that stand out for their rich collections, Aziz Ogan played a pivotal role in protecting the antiques in these institutions. He appointed guards to protect both the ruins and the museums. The Aziz Ogan Collection is also a unique source of information about everyday life in the excavations, especially concerning the recruitment of guards and the interpersonal relationships among workers.
Aziz Ogan encouraged Governor Kazım Pasha, whom he had met during the World War I in Damascus, to establish the İzmir Society of Friends of Antiquities. Attracting much attention in a short period of time, the Society of Friends of the İzmir Museum of Antiquities gained members among the intellectuals living in İzmir and foreign archaeologists and historians interested in Turkey. It played an important role in establishing an awareness towards of archaeology in the region.
Upon the retirement of Osman Hamdi Bey's brother, Halil Edhem Bey, from his post at the head of İstanbul Museums, Aziz Ogan was appointed as the General Director of İstanbul Museums and occupied this position until his retirement in 1954.
Aziz Ogan made substantial contributions to the recognition of the Turkish museum and archaeological studies in the international arena by publishing the bulletin “Almanac of İstanbul Archaeology Museum” at various intervals starting in 1934. The conversions of both the Hagia Sophia into a museum and the Tabhane Madrasa in the Süleymaniye Complex into the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum also coincide with the years of Aziz Ogan's directorship. Again in this period, he also facilitated the opening of new sections in the Orient section of the İstanbul Archaeology Museum, organized informative conferences about the museums and put forth publications about the Fethiye Mosque, İstanbul City Walls and Tiled Kiosk.
The most remarkable works that came into being during Aziz Ogan's İstanbul years were his research on Byzantine history and his inventory study. In this period, Ogan prepared several guidebooks on the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), Kariye (Chora), Aya İrini (Hagia Irene) churches and Fethiye Mosque (Pammakaristos Church), as well as various mosaics and Byzantine sculptures for publication. His archives contain numerous longhand notes taken for this purpose.
During his İstanbul years, Aziz Ogan participated in various explorations both in museums and excavations in European countries. He visited prominent museums in countries such as Austria, Germany, Holland, England, France and Italy. He had the opportunity to see excavation fields and observe the new techniques applied in these excavations, especially in Italy and Greece.
Jale İnan, daughter of Aziz Ogan, explains his services during his directorship as follows:
“Aziz Ogan, thanks to his orderly and systemic work as the director of İstanbul Archaeology Museums for twenty-three years until 1954, served greatly in the scientific and professional development of the museum. Some collections were classified according to scientific methods, while existing collections were enriched by new ones and exhibited in separate galleries. In the meantime, four new halls opened in the Old Orient section of the archaeological museum, two pertaining to Egyptian, one to Parthian and the other to Himyerate artifacts, and old halls were subjected to a thorough scientific classification. The rich tablet archive that housed hundreds of thousands of written documents was created thanks to his help. Inside the classical antiquities section, a hall was opened to house artifacts unearthed during university excavations; rich Byzantine and ceramic collections were exhibited; decorative arts, coins, and medal collections were opened to public.”
Jale İnan, İstanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi, 1957, p. 173
A historian of Antiquity and archaeologist Kurt Bittel, the head of the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsche Archäologische Institut), has voiced the following words about Aziz Ogan:
“Thanks to his particular administrative capacities, Aziz Ogan, by working continuously and irreverently, has established the museums of İzmir, Ephesus and Pergamon with the artifacts which he gathered from various excavation sites, and endeavored to turn these museums, particularly the Museum of İzmir, into the biggest ones both in Turkey and the world. It is obvious that the archaeological world will forever be grateful to Ogan because of his wide range of services, such as introducing the rich and priceless content of these museums to the archaeology world through the valuable works and guidebooks which he wrote and published in Turkish as well as in a number of foreign languages.”
Son Saat, 29 September 1951