Three exhibitions that examine ways of looking at the ancient and Byzantine past from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century were recently on display in Istanbul. These exhibitions reevaluated the changing discourses and practices of archaeology as both a scholarly enterprise and a popular endeavor, particularly in relation to the late Ottoman and early Turkish contexts. They explored how contemporaries looked at, understood, and wrote about the culture, art, and architecture of the past from their various and varying perspectives.

The exhibition Scramble for the Past: A Story of Archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, 1753–1914 at SALT Galata was curated by Zainab Bahrani, Zeynep Çelik, and Edhem Eldem (Figure 1). It revolved around a double narrative of an apparently conventional historical account of the birth and development of “modern archaeology” from the founding of the British Museum in 1753 to the establishment of the Ottoman Pious Foundations...

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