Istanbul – The Kelsey Blog


From the Archives #61

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

Over the course of 2020, we have been following the travels of Francis Kelsey and his team as they made their way across Europe. They arrived in 1919 and stayed through August 1920. The past few months here on “From the Archives,” we went back to the start of their journey, recounting the team’s arrival in Europe in 1919. We have watched them land in England, travel about, and make their way to the mainland.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we join the team as they end 1919. In early December, they were still in Bulgaria, where we left them last month. By December 3, they started their train trip from Sofia to Istanbul. In this series of photographs, we see the train and the sights along the way. It seems that Swain was fond of capturing their entire adventure, which so often meant their modes of transportation. Thus far on this trip, we have seen trains, and ships, cars, and more trains.

Swain also made sure to capture life as they saw it. People working, people milling about, people living their lives. We have seen his attention to architecture, or the remains of it after the ravages of war. On their way to Turkey, we see the same. Men at the station, the landscapes, and buildings along the way.

Once in Istanbul, Swain continued his relentless capture, giving us glimpses of the sites of the city, such as the Hagia Sophia, the bazaar, the Galata Bridge and Tower, the Blue Mosque (Mosque of Ahmed), and the “Bosporus” (Bosphorus). Along the waters, we see numerous ships and boats, including military ships from Italy, the US, and Greece.

After Christmas, the team left Istanbul (“Constantinople”) and traveled some more. More trains, more train stations, more views of the countryside. And more people they met along the way. We see Francis and Easton Kelsey, as well as George Swain himself, posing throughout. We are also allowed to see some of the repercussions of recent events. Miss Cushman’s “relief” kindergarten and all the children there. In photo 7.0156, we see an Armenian refugee camp. Francis Kelsey was heavily involved in the relief effort following the Armenian genocide. Later on this trip, they would spend more time with Armenians and with refugees in Syria.

For their last day of 1919, Kelsey and team were in Adana, not far from the modern Syrian border (and near Aleppo). Here they got more views of the locals, the buildings, the station, and life in general. And more relief work.

Swain was quite prolific with his photo capture. For December 1919 alone, we have records for 376 Swain photographs. We are presenting only 99 this month, but even these show the range of his photographs.

By this point, we have covered the majority of their visit to Europe and beyond, recounting the start of the journey as well as the tail end of the trip. Since the majority of their trip occurred in 1920, and we have already accompanied them throughout 2020, we will take our leave of the team here in Turkey. For glimpses of how the journey continued, be sure to go back and view previous blog posts from 2020, where we present their visits to Turkey, Syria, and elsewhere.

Wherever you find yourself this coming new year’s eve, we wish you the best and a happy holiday. Thank you for following Kelsey and Swain’s adventures this year. In 2021, we will return with new series and memories from the archives. Happy new year!

December 2, 1919: Sofia, Bulgaria

“Residence of the Archibishop near the cathedral.” KS040.05.
“General view, from the steps of the new cathedral, across the square to the mountains beyond — latter clearly shown.” KS040.11.
“Interior of the new cathedral, toward one transept; Christ in the Temple.” KS040.07.

December 3–4: Train ride from Sofia to Istanbul (“Constantinople”)

“One of the three engines that pulled us up out of the Sofia plain. Made in Germany in 1917.” KS041.05.
“Dining and sleeping cars on the train — express.” KS041.07.
“Just over the divide — train, station, mountains.” KS041.09.
“The engine that pulled us into Constantinople. Had to stop to get its breath at the foot of one small grade.” KS042.02.
“Typical group at a station, men and women.” December 4. KS042.03.

December 5–25: Istanbul (“Constantinople” / “Stamboul”)

“The umbrella mender sitting on the sidewalk on a typical street.” December 5. KS043.04.
“Typical view on one of the modern streets. At this time, signs in French were allowed.” December 5. KS043.05.
“Up the Golden Horn from the Galata Bridge, ferry steamer in the foreground.” December 5. KS043.07.
“View toward Pera and the Galata Tower.” December 5. KS043.11.
“The Galata Bride, looking toward Pera.” December 5. KS043.12.
“From the Galata Tower, toward Stamboul, into the light. Mosques on sky line. Glint of Sea of Marmora in distance.” December 5. KS044.09.
“Pair of buffalo oxen with loaded cart, probably sacks of grain.” December 5. KS045.03.
“Men unloading a small boat.” December 5. KS045.06.
No caption. Group of men. December 5. KS045.08
“Sancta Sophia, from the square.” December 5. KS045.09.
“A view on Pera Street, the great tourist shopping district, and the modern part of Constantinople.” December 7. KS045.12.
“Another view of St. Sophia.” December 7. KS046.01.
“The mosque of Ahmed, near St. Sophia.” December 9. KS046.08.
“Turkish houses with wooden screens at the windows, in Stamboul.” December 9. KS046.09.
“Shop where they pressed the Turkish tabbooses or fezes.” (With the passing of the fez this must be a vanished industry in 1927). December 9. KS046.10.
“A tiny cobbler’s shop by the street in Stamboul.” December 9. KS046.11.
“Street view with Turkish women — little off focus.” December 9. KS046.11.
“Glimpse into courtyard in Stamboul.” December 9. KS047.02.
“Men washing their feet before entering a mosque.” December 9. KS047.03.
“Entrance to the shop of the antiquarian. Andronicos M. Kidaoglou, Imameli Han No. 10, (Merdjan), Stamboul.” December 9. KS047.07.
“A busy corner near the Egyptian bazaar.” December 9. KS047.09.
“Young man having a letter written by the old public letter writer. Near the Egyptian bazaar.” December 9. KS047.10.
“Crowd of people by the booths of the Egyptian bazaar.” December 9. KS047.11.
“A.C.R.N.E. (later “N.E.R.”) bakery, exterior. Formerly an Armenian bakery. Capacity 10,000 loaves a day, but could be doubled with full supply of flour. Bread furnished free to orphan establishments, balance of bread sold for 10 piastres a loaf — ‘about half the cost when stealing is deducted’ — Maj. Arnold.” December 18. 7.0096.
“N.E.R. bakery, sacks of flour in the storeroom up stairs.” December 18. 7.0099.
“Scutari. Bargaining for charcoal.” December 21. KS049.03.
“Scutari. Row of old wooden Turkish houses near the cemetery — of such are fire hazards made.” December 21. KS050.12.
“A pile of mine sweepers on the dock.” December 22. KS051A.01.
“An Italian destroyer at an anchor in the harbor.” December 22. KS051A.02.
“U.S.S. GALVESTON moored to the dock. Taken from the shore.” December 22. 7.0095.
“Looking up along the shores of the Bosporus from the U.S.S. Galveston.” December 22. KS051A.03.
“The old U.S.S. Mississippi, now Greek.” December 22. KS051A.04.
“Bosporus. Anatoli Hissar, Castle of Asia, from the water.” December 22. KS051B.01.
No caption. Bosphorus. December 22. KS051B.06.
“Bosporus. Roumeli Hissar at sunset, into the light.” December 22. KS051B.10.
“Two of the men servants at the Continental Hotel. Duplicate of KS052.02.” December 24. KS052.02.
“Bread for sale.” December 24. KS052.07.
“Porter carrying a large bureau with mirror, on his shoulders.” December 24. KS052.08.
“Front of the Continental Hotel.” December 24. KS052.09.
“Scene in a fruit market.” December 24. KS052.11.
“Easton Kelsey by the parapet of one of the Seven Towers.” December 24. KS053.12.
“Bosporus. From the hill back, looking through between the two outer towers of Roumeli Hissar, across the Bosporus toward Anatoli Hissar and the surrounding country. Long focus lens — better view than the preceding — 70127.” On the verso of the photograph is written in Swain’s hand: “Roumeli Hissar where Mohammedans crossed into Europe. Bosphorus 1/2 mile (west?).” 7.0129.
“The crew of the U.S.N. launch that took us down to the Seven Towers.” December 24. KS054.01.
“Easton Kelsey by the flag in the stern of the launch.” December 24. KS054.08.
“G.R. Swain by the flag in the stern of the launch. Undertimed.” December 24. KS054.09.
“Mr. Perry, Mr. Bristol and Mr. Stevens, photographed in the yard of the Y.M.C.A.” (Last picture taken of Mr. Perry before he was shot on the Aintab road.) Second copy of photo has its own caption: “Left to right: James Perry, killed near Aintab, February 1; Secretary Bristol and Associate Secretary Stevens, of the Y.M.C.A. Association in Constantinople, photograph made December 25, 1919. Photograph by George R. Swain.” December 25. 7.0012.

December 27–28: Train ride from Derince (“Derindje”) to Konya (“Konia”)

“The A.C.R.N.E. restaurant at Derindje. Derindje was the landing point for stuff by steamer from the U.S.A. and other places at this time.” December 27. KS056.01.
“Approaching Affiun Kara Hissar, the junction point for the line from Smyrna. High bluffs near the line.” December 28. KS056.05.
“Just a crowd by the train at a station.” December 28. DKS056.06.
“Just a snap shot on a station platform. Professor (Francis W.) Kelsey at the left. Well built station.” December 28. KS056.08.
“Line of five Hindoo soldiers at a station.” December 28. KS056.09.
“Group of native men at one of the stations.” December 28. KS056.10.
“A native omnibus — araba. This is a four-wheeled vehicle.” December 28. KS056.11.
“Party that travelled down through Asia Minor in freight cars. Same as 7.147, except that in this one the Armenian cook is standing in the door of the Diner.” (Figure on left with hat and topcoat looks very much like F. Kelsey. DSB.) Ula Kushla, Turkey. December 28. 7.0148.
“Our four freight cars de luxe. The Armenian cook is standing in the door of the dining car.” December 28. KS057.05.
“Five of the party in the door of the dining car. The man is Major Arnold.” December 28. KS057.04.

December 29: Konya (“Konia”)

“A poverty stricken woman in the street.” KS057.09.
“A group of ‘relief’ kindergarten children. Miss Cushman’s work.” KS057.10.
“A new boy coming to the school. Miss Cushman’s work.” KS057.11.
“Miss Cushman talking to some boys.” KS057.12.
“Children doing kindergarten exercises.” KS058.01.
“Another kindergarten exercise — little out of focus.” KS058.03.
“General view of Miss Cushman’s ‘plant’, the American Polyclinic.” (Used as a hotel in September 1924). KS058.05.
“Some native women, veiled, going by the fountain in front of Miss Cushman’s.” KS058.07.
“The Reo Speed Wagon in front of the entrance to Miss Cushman’s – the American Polyclinic.” KS058.08.
“Street view — shutter too slow.” KS058.09.
“Women by a mosque — likely beggars.” KS058.10.
“General view of the approach to the Museum.” (Practically unchanged in 1924). KS059.02.
“Ruins of the Armenian church.” KS059.05.

December 30: Train ride from Konya to Adana

“A caravan encamped, somewhere south of Konia.” KS059.09.
“A near view of some camels.” KS059.10.
“Crowd on the station platform at Eregli.” KS059.11.
“Shepherd with wide coat — moved a little.” KS060.05.
“Group, most of the men of our party, in front of the A.C.R.N.E. house at Ula Kushla.” KS060.09.
“A glimpse into the heart of the Taurus range.” KS061.05.
“The station at Tchefte Khan.” KS062.01.
“Station and mountain, taken from top of train.” KS062.09.

December 31: Adana

“General view of part of Armenian refugee camp at Adana. Armenians were moved here from Aleppo. Tents were ditched and comfortably dry.” 7.0156.
“Demobilized Turkish soldiers at the Adana station.” KS062.12.
“Car with BAGDAD in metal letters on the side — railway car.” KS063.02.
“Camels by the station.” KS064.02.
“Group of fairly well dressed natives, probably mostly Turkish.” KS064.06.
“Exterior of the Adana station. Expanse of sloppy mud, woman with basket walking through it.” KS063.05.
“Woman (Armenian?) and child in street by wall.” KS063.07.
“Group of natives bolling cotton by hand, on the sidewalk just outside the hospital.” KS063.09.
“Gateway to the hospital, American.” KS063.08.
“Very similar to the preceding, KS063.10, but group in slightly different position.” KS063.11.
“General view along the corridor (arcade) of the Hospital.” KS063.12.
“An English industrial “plant” — relief work. Interior, time exposure, some moved.” KS064.08.
“Group of Miss Webb’s girls in the courtyard with looms, machines, etc. Three or four Armenian girl-mothers at the left in the foreground.” 7.0154.
“At Miss Webb’s school. Three Armenian girls and the rugs they had been weaving.” On the verso of the photograph is written in Swain’s hand: “Girls of Adana, weaving rugs.” 7.0153.

From the Archives #56

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

This year has proven to be a difficult one for many people. COVID-19 has affected the health of a great number of people throughout the world. Through it all, the people at the frontline have proven how essential they have been and still are. Nurses and doctors have been stretched thin, and we thank them for their dedication.

Acknowledging the work of health professionals is not limited only to emergencies and times of crisis. Hospital workers face dire situations day after day. And still, they show up to help people.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present this picture taken 100 years ago by George Swain. In 1919 and 1920, Swain and Francis Kelsey traveled through Turkey and Syria. They had several goals during this trip, including some archaeological ones. In addition to this work, Kelsey was intent on visiting humanitarian efforts in Turkey and Syria, including orphanages and hospitals, and the refugees who were there.

In June 1920, Swain snapped a photo of nurses and staff in front of a hospital in Istanbul (Swain refers to it as Stamboul, as it was still Constantinople at the time). The nurses worked at the Canadian Hospital for Tubercular Children. On the reverse side of the photo, someone wrote the following:

The personnel of the Canadian Hosp for Tubercular Children Yédi Koulé consists of

A Greek cook and housemaid, husband and wife
A Greek guard and pantry maid, husband and wife
Two Turkish chauffeurs
Two Armenian orderlies
One Armenian kitchen boy
One Armenian gardener
One Armenian Housekeeper
Five Armenian nurses
Three Russian nurses

All natives seen in the photo are Armenians, others not being on the place the day the photo was taken. The Hospital’s (formal opening) will take place on Canada’s Dominion Day July 1st.

Tubercular children to be admitted June 21st.


group shot of people sitting on steps
Group of nine nurses and staff members on the steps of the Canadian Hospital for Tubercular Children in Istanbul, June 1920. Photo by George Swain. Kelsey Archives 7.0583.
handwritten note on back of photo
Handwritten note on the back of photo 7.0583.

A mix of people of different origins and nationalities came together in order to help children. Kelsey was invested in these efforts and worked with the Red Cross to help provide resources to those in need in the region.

It is evident that nurses and doctors have consistently been doing what they can for the sick. And have been for a long time. The events of 2020 are just another example of this effort. We are grateful to the people putting themselves in positions to help us when we need them most.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919

From the Archives #49 — December 2019

By Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

In December, many of us spend a lot of time at local stores perusing goods that we think would make great gifts for our loved ones. We spend hours trying to find the perfect gift, the item that shows how we think about those we care about, whether they are close to us or far away.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we go one hundred years back in time, to December 1919, to find a University of Michigan staff member far from home but doing the same thing — going to shops and markets, perhaps to find souvenirs to send back home to Michigan. In 1919 and 1920, U-M photographer George R. Swain accompanied Francis Kelsey on an expedition through Europe and the Mediterranean region. Their goal was to document classical sites as well as to identify sites that might have potential for future excavations.

Here we present seven images taken by Swain in Istanbul — or Constantinople, as it was referred to then (some photo captions refer to the area of “Stamboul”). While traveling, Swain photographed not only archaeological artifacts, sites, and structures, nor did he focus solely on collections at other museums. Almost everywhere he went, Swain turned the camera around to his surroundings, to the people in the area, offering us a glimpse into life in those countries at that time.

The photos shown here cover a time period of 20 days, from 5 December to 24 December 1919. Swain captures life at several shops and businesses in Istanbul. We see a person fixing umbrellas. A cobbler’s shop. A busy corner at the bazaar. Bread and fruit for sale. All the shopping Swain chose to capture.

These photographs allow us to see what the city was like one hundred years ago. People who visit Istanbul now will notice many similarities, but also many differences. The bazaar, though altered, remains. Maybe some of those same shops are still there! And the sentiment is the same. People going about doing their shopping, purchasing items they need, or gifts for friends and family. Now in 2019, we continue doing the same.

Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“The umbrella mender sitting on the sidewalk on a typical street.” 5 December 1919. KS043.4.
Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Shop where they pressed the Turkish tabbooses or fezes.” 9 December 1919. (With the passing of the fez, this was a vanished industry by 1927.) KS046.10.
Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“A tiny cobbler’s shop by the street in Stamboul.” 9 December 1919. KS046.11.
Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“A busy corner near the Egyptian bazaar.” 9 December 1919. KS047.9.
Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Crowd of people by the booths of the Egyptian bazaar.” 9 December 1919. KS047.11.
Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Bread for sale.” 24 December 1919. KS052.7.
Black and white photo of an Istanbul market, 1919
“Scene in a fruit market.” 24 December 1919. KS052.11.

From the Archives #45 — August 2019

Sebastián Encina, Collections Manager

It is August, when students and faculty are beginning their return to Ann Arbor for the new academic year. Soon all these people will settle into the familiar routine of classes and meetings and deadlines. It will all be different, and yet still the same.

During their time away, these people were off scattered about the globe. They were studying, excavating, visiting with colleagues, and advancing their research. However, during their summer, they took the time to find moments for themselves. To vacation, to enjoy the various locations where they found themselves. To live where they had traveled.

Many of the archival photographs the Kelsey Museum possesses were taken by University of Michigan people, such as Easton Kelsey, E. E. Peterson, but primarily by George R. Swain. These photos show the work they were undertaking in locations such as Antioch, or Karanis, or Carthage. However, not all the photographs in the archives are of buildings, artifacts, or of U-M people at work.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a single roll of photographs taken in 1919 when George Swain was traveling for work. He turns his attention to the city he finds himself in, Istanbul. No longer simply photographing the work they are doing, he captures moments in the city, random events, interesting scenes. We see a train, the boats along the Golden Horn, people on the Galata Bridge, and an umbrella mender working on the street.

In those days, there were no digital cameras or cell phones to capture these views. Instead, Swain was using the equipment he brought with him. Most “professional” photographs were captured with a view camera using glass plates. These were heavy and cumbersome to carry. Swain also carried a smaller Kodak that used film. This was used for additional photographs, not the professional ones of artifacts and architecture, but everything or anything else. That choice is captured in the archival numbers given to these photographs (KS for Kodak Swain, KP for Kodak Peterson, KK for Kodak Kelsey, depending on who was using the camera at the time). For these, the “43” refers to the arbitrary film roll number assigned. At the time, rolls of film only had 12 frames. Swain knew he was limited in how many photographs he could take before he ran out of film.

The first frame of this roll, KS043.01, is, unfortunately, missing from the archives, so there is no image to show. However, we do have Swain’s notes, and thus know he captured the following: “Dining car with all the metal letters removed to get brass in the war presumably.”

Years from now, current students and researchers will go through their collection of photographs from their travels in the summer of 2019. Not everything was work-related, and memories will be rekindled of the adventures they went on this year.

“The Galata Bridge, looking toward Pera.” KS043.12.

From the Archives — July 2016

BY SEBASTIÁN ENCINA, Museum Collections Manager, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology


Istanbul is a beautiful city. For the readers who have had the pleasure of visiting this majestic city, you will know the wonders to be found around each corner. The Hagia Sophia standing iconically in Sultanahmet, not far from the Blue Mosque. In between a park where people gather at all times of day, but that comes to life at night. The area of Sultanahmet, though touristy, is ripe with colours and glamorous views from atop hotels that look out over the Bosphorus.

A few minutes away one can get lost in the Grand Bazaar. Various corridors will take the visitor to shops of all kinds. If you need a souvenir, you can find it in the bazaar. Fresh fruits, fish and meats, nuts, spices, including Iranian saffron, are all there for the picking. Jewelry and household adornments. Clothing and housewares. An ornate tea set that would look great in your parent’s house. Hours later, you might still find yourself going down paths that are new to you, and keep finding new goods you cannot live without. The shopkeepers eager to encourage you to buy.

Walk long enough in the bazaar and you might come to an exit eventually. Though you entered coming from Sultanahmet, you find a new exit. This one brings you directly to the Bosphorus and the Galata Bridge. There is still much to see on the old side of the city, but you wander onto the bridge. Here, along the lower level, you can stop for lunch at one of the numerous restaurants clamoring for your patronage. Enjoy the fish coming off the boats and wash it down with the local brew, Efes.

From here, you can continue to the new side of the city, where modern shops with brand names litter Istiklal Street. You see more cafes, where artists gather to talk the hot topic. Restaurants and food vendors are found on every corner, and between. The Galata Tower towering over this area, and the steep steps leading you up to get a good view. Turn around, or climb the tower (which has a restaurant), and glance again at the Bosphorus and the old city. The minarets sprinkling the city from end to end. You see the bazaar waiting to greet you again. Maybe you continue to Taksim Square, or visit Galatasaray Lisesi, the high school on Istiklal. Or you do some shopping.

Eventually you return to Galata Bridge, but rather than head back into the old city, you take a ferry tour of the Bosphorus. A tour guide pointing out the famous buildings in landmarks, as you relax on the gentle waters. When done, you head back to Sultanahmet and you see a gathering of people. What is this, you wonder, and you come close to an outdoor theatre where whirling dervish dancers perform. They spin to the music, and you find yourself lost in the motion.

Nearby, as it is dark, you see families out playing with light toys that shoot up in the sky. Street vendors sell corn and other treats. Others, including locals and tourists, duck into hookah lounges, where they enjoy some chai and flavored shisha.

There is much to this city, and Francis Kelsey and George Swain found something quite similar when they visited. Back then, the city was still known as Constantinople, though in his photos, Swain refers to a “Stamboul.” The city has changed much since the 1920s. A comparison of photos shows the spread of buildings and new construction found everywhere. Still, locals will look over these photos and see much they recognize. And they speak to the changes to modern times. The photos Swain took are, quite literally, a snapshot of a bygone time, but one not that long ago.

Istanbul has been an important city for a long time. It is where Asia meets Europe. Much trade goes through this city, as it also controls access to the Black Sea. It is no wonder that Kelsey visited many times on his way back and forth between North Africa and Europe, with stops in Palestine and Syria. And many present-day Kelsey archaeologists go through Istanbul on their way to Notion, or Aphrodisias, or any number of sites where Michigan has a presence. Istanbul is a magical city, one highly recommended to visit. It is full of life and beautiful scenes. Nothing can detract from this.

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