March 9, 2016 - SALT - Empty Fields
March 9, 2016


Prof. Manissadjian with his students, Merzifon, Turkey (date unknown). United Church of Christ (UCC), American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT), SALT Research.


Empty Fields
April 6–June 5, 2016

SALT Galata
Bankalar Caddesi 11, Karaköy
34420 Istanbul

Empty Fields is the first exhibition to explore the archive of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) and the Protestant mission work in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. Working with the archives, the exhibition begins by considering the period when the Empire collapsed and the Republic was formed, whereby certain archival absences bear the traces of the Great Catastrophe of 1915. 

Curated by Marianna Hovhannisyan, the exhibition takes the archive’s empty fields as its structuring guidelines and suggests that they stand for markers of ontological and epistemological areas of study left blank. Supplemented by video interviews, Empty Fields selects rare archival materials, including photographs, maps and correspondences, and through this perspective, a reference to a different archive emerges: the catalog of a more than a century-old natural science collection of the Museum of Anatolia College, Merzifon, Turkey. Unique for its time, the museum collection amassed more than 7,000 artifacts under the curatorship of Prof. Johannes Jacob Manissadjian, an Armenian-German scientist, botanist, and plant collector. Empty Fields traces the routes of dispersal of a number of the original showcases and their contents, and highlights the layered frameworks of museological, geo-politicized space in an attempt to face the irretrievability of a particular period in history.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a public program and an e-publication. A set of lectures and articles aim to bring contemporary perspectives on the concepts of collection-in-exile, the agencies of the archives and museological histories in post-catastrophic events.

Empty Fields is made possible through the partnership of SALT, that has been cataloging and digitizing the archive, and the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT), the archive’s caretaker. In 2014 SALT sought the assistance of 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 available content. Hovhannisyan’s residency at SALT was supported by the Hrant Dink Foundation Turkey-Armenia Fellowship Scheme funded by the European Union (2014–2015). 

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