The museum’s size and scope are formidable to the casual museum-goer. The space includes 13 exhibition halls and an open air gallery, covering seven thousand square metres and containing five thousand works of art. An additional thirty thousand artifacts are kept in storage.
The museum shines a light on the history of the Mediterranean, and ancient Anatolia, and is considered one of the country’s historical resources. However, it’s amazing when you look back at the museum’s history and consider how close it came to never existing at all. At the end of World War I, Antalya was under Italian military occupation. Italian archaeologists began to remove the archaeological relics in the town centre and surroundings, taking the artifacts to the Italian Embassy. They claimed this was their way of preserving Turkish history.
Thankfully, the Sultan’s teacher, Suleyman Fikri Bey, swiftly had himself appointed as the voluntary curator of antiquities and established the first Antalya Museum, filling it with all the remaining relics he could get his hands on.
At first the museum was located in two mosques, before moving to its present location in 1972.
The exhibitions are arranged over 13 halls. The Natural History Hall is dedicated to the area’s fauna, from exhibits of man down to one-celled animals. There are plenty of charts and pictures as well as the bones and fossils you’d expect.
The Pre History Hall has artefacts recovered from Karain, Okuzini and Sehahoyuk. The cave of Karain is a large natural structure where a number of civilisations have lived and the artefacts range from the Paleolithic to the Roman Age and include animal fossils and kitchen utensils.
The Classic Period Hall has works dating from the Mycenaean Age to the Hellenistic. Here you’ll see earthenware sculpture, wine bowls and crockery. There is also a large and famous statuette of Apollo, as well as Roman statues.
The intriguingly named Hall of Small Objects is a treasure trove of lamps, glass objects, incense holders and silverware from the Roman and Byzantine periods, while the Hall of Imperial Statues has a line-up of prestigious persons from the Roman period excavated from Perge: emperors, empresses and the like. You’ll also run into Hadrian and the Emperor Septimus Severius. Lights illuminating each figure turn on as you approach, lending a striking effect to the statues and the imposing hall.
The hall in the museum’s entrance has been organised as a Children’s Museum, which at the time was the first of its kind in Turkey. The display windows have children’s toys and moneyboxes harking back through the ages. There are a number of activities for children, such as simple restorations and sculpture and drawing.
The museum’s courtyard has a relaxing cafe where you can have a cup of tea and coffee and resurface into the modern-day world with its tall buildings and modern Antalya property before plunging back inside to once more take in Turkey’s fascinating history.