One of the most renowned cultural institutions in the region, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi) plays an integral role in the rich cultural history of Istanbul. It opened to the public in 1914 as the Museum of Islamic Endowments (Evkaf-ı İslamiye Müzesi) in the soup kitchen of the Süleymaniye Mosque complex. The collection consisted of treasures that the Ottomans had endowed to religious institutions throughout the empire since at least the 1500s. When the unity of the empire was threatened, the government transferred these works to Istanbul for safekeeping. With the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the institution changed its name to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
The collection was moved in 1983 to its current location—the imposing palace of the grand vizier Ibrahim Pasha (died 1536). Overlooking the Byzantine Hippodrome and now the “Blue Mosque,” the building was probably a wedding gift when the grand vizier married Sultan Süleyman’s sister, Hatice Sultan. In the twentieth century, it was used as military barracks and fell into disrepair. After two decades of extensive restoration, the former palace reopened in 1983 as the new location of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
Today the collection contains some of the earliest and finest carpets from the Islamic world and over 17,000 manuscripts, including more than 3,000 Qur’ans and 250,000 early Qur’anic fragments from the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, among other treasures.