The Largest Visual Archive of the 19th Century: Yıldız Albums of Abdulhamid II. Khan in Digital Media

İstanbul University has one of the richest visual archives in the world, Sultan Abdülhamid II Khan sheds light on history by offering Yıldız Photography Collection to the use of researchers in digital environment. 36 thousand 585 frames of photographs, which are included in 918 albums opened to digital access, enable the preservation of cultural heritage and transfer to future generations. Head of İstanbul University’s Library and Documentation Department. Dr.Pervin Bezirci portrays details about the Yıldız Photography Collection, which reflects the architectural and social fabric of its time, and the digitization of albums.
Sultan Abdülhamid II, one of whose collections kept within the Rare Works Library of İstanbul University. Yıldız Photography Collection of Abdulhamid Han is defined as the biggest visual archive of the 19th century. This collection, which consists of photographs taken during the reign of Abdülhamid II KHan, offers researchers the opportunity to read, interpret and identify the social, cultural, economic and political history of the period. Saying that the Yıldız Photography Collection is maintained at the İstanbul University Rare Works Library, air conditioning, security and all storage conditions are maintained at the highest level of protection. Dr.Pervin Bezirci stated that the idea of creating digital copies has emerged in order to keep the collection in healthy conditions for future generations for longer years and to prevent the works that could be worn out during investigations. In this context, for Abdülhamid Han II’s Yıldız Albums Project, the preparatory work has been done since 2013. Dr Bezirci emphasized that the project aims to enable researchers to access both metadata and photo content together, quickly and safely. 

Dr. Bezirci noted that the project was implemented under the auspices of the Presidency, with the cooperation and support of the Rectorate of İstanbul University and the General Secretariat of the Grand National Assembly of (National Palaces) Turkey stating that the teams of the Library and Documentation Department of National Palaces and İstanbul University have been cooperating intensely and enjoyably at every stage of the project, “The long-term preparation stages and intensive labor were behind the doors so that the data produced as a result of the process can be easily accessible with one click.
 Technical infrastructure of the Project, Dr. Bezirci said that the studies were done in order to carry out technical processes in the Digitization / Digitization Department of the Library and Documentation Department. Touching on the fact that preliminary preparations have been planned since 2013, Dr. Bezirci said: “Determination of the appropriate technical equipment, purchase of the necessary equipment, establishment of the team with job descriptions for each stage of the technical procedures and personnel training processes were carried out. Professional line scanner and workstation were provided in various sizes (2 in A0, 2 in A1, 6 in A2 sizes) depending on the types and qualifications of the publication. In addition, a professional camera and workstation were prepared at the beginning of 2019 for the digitization of museum works. In order for the digitization projects to be carried out under quality conditions, the personnel working in this job were specially trained and the process was managed in a controlled manner in accordance with the prepared digitization policy. Shots were made according to TS 13298 Information and Documentation-Electronic Document Management standard. ”
Search With All Kinds of Word Entries can be done
Stating that digitization methods and business plans are made according to the types of publications, Dr. Bezirci emphasized that the studies consisted of 2 stages and continued his statements as follows: “Firstly, the types of publications determined are scanned at high resolutions with the scanning devices equipped to be transferred to the electronic environment. In the next step, cataloging processes are made to access the digitized publications over the automation system, and the digitalized images are mapped and transferred to the electronic environment. Publications whose transactions are completed can be accessed with a single click through the library automation system. The researcher can access the digitalized publication rapidly in the internet environment regardless of time and place. Scans are done with the OCR (Optical Character Identification) method. In this way, the researcher is able to search with any word entry, and to easily access the information he is looking for.

Digital Shootings and Cataloging Stages
Sultan II. Abdülhamid Han Photo Albums Project work was carried out in two stages: digital shots and cataloging. After the installation of the reproduction table and the light system in the Rare Works Library, Dr. Bezirci said that the work to be photographed was wiped with micro fiber anti static cloth and nano technology were used to remove dust with very fine bristle special brushes. Dr.Bezirci added that after this process, the page numbers, color clarities, white balances, page margins and edge bios of the photographs taken on the workstation computer are checked one by one. "After the images were approved at the last control, 3 different format images were output, transferred from the network system to backup units and cloud technology and backed up." Bezirci underlined that the photographs were shot one by one and a total of 75 thousand frames were obtained at this stage, which lasted about a year.

“Our Project Contributes to the Brand Value of Our Country”
Dr. Bezirci noted that the cataloging phase was carried out by the staff of history and art history experts appointed by the National Palaces and the catalog specialist librarians at the İstanbul University Library and Documentation Department. Dr. Bezirci emphasized that in this stage, every detail in the photographs was defined to the maximum extent, and that all possible search criteria and high-level photo tags were found, and the following expressions were made: “This project conveys the collection to future generations, protects cultural heritage values and creates digital access. It provides. The application is converted to interactive using digital archive material. The collection, which is opened to digital access, can be delivered to a wide audience through events such as exhibitions, broadcasts and documentaries within the scope of various concepts at home and abroad. The study is an example of digital resources that can be evaluated within the framework of cultural heritage that is produced institutionally in our country. The outputs of the project contribute to the prestige and brand value of our country in the international arena. ”

263 Different Signatures in Photos
Dr.Bezirci who made explanations about the content of the photos within the scope of the Photo Albums Project of Sultan Abdulhamid Khan II, pointed out that the collection has a wide range that covers not only the Ottoman Empire but even the very distant countries of the world. Sultan II. Noting that the photos used by Abdulhamid as a means of recognition and detection contain a very rich variety. Dr. Bezirci said that some of them are about the city and natural beauties, palaces, factories, ships, weapons and various industrial products, religious and state museums and works of art in America, Europe and some Far Eastern countries, especially Japan. The majority of the photos are cities, islands, castles, bridges, police stations, fountains, mosques, shrines, schools, hospitals, Ottoman palaces, mansions and pavilions, city panoramas, sports shows, ceremonies, visits of foreign heads to İstanbul and Jerusalem. It includes a wide range of subjects such as factories, ships, railways, stations, exhibitions, farms, busbars, palace jewelery, palace theater, princes and sultans, officers and aides, and group photographs from various segments. Approximately 263 signatures draw attention in the photography collection as the greatest photographers or photographers of the period. ”
Sultan II. Abdülhamid KHan's Photo Albums Project's preliminary work started in 2018 by the Rector of Istanbul University. Prof.Dr. Mahmut Ak and Deputy Secretary General of the Turkish Grand National Assembly It was examined on the spot by Yasin Yıldız on a Visit to İstanbul University’s Rare Works Library. Prof. Ak and Dr. Yıldız received information about the details of the project and visited the exhibition prepared for them.

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