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The Istanbul Archaeological Museums return, piece by piece

A vast plan to restore and revitalize Turkey's first modern museum, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, established in 1869, remains a partial work in progress, but the completion of the first phase has produced a visitor friendly and engaging environment.

Topkapi Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans, is not only the most popular museum in Istanbul but in all of Turkey. In 2018, slightly more than 3 million people visited it. Meanwhile, next door in the former outer gardens of the palace, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, a complex of three different buildings, attracted only one-tenth that number last year, with 378,675 visitors.

How is it that one of the first and richest archaeological collections in the world — established in 1869 and with objects spanning consequential millennia and cultured civilizations from Anatolia — could attract only a fraction of the attention tourists lavish on Topkapi, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque? Three reasons come readily to mind.

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