Living museum, producing city

1. Context

Yalova is on the south of the Marmara Region in Turkey. Since the early Ottoman period, Yalova (or Yalakabad with its historical name) had been under Ottoman rule and in the periphery of Ottoman imperial centers. The city welcomes one million visitors annually and it is known for its thermal baths, thus being a center of health tourism. Also, it is home to endangered plants and animals in its mountainous parts and one of its biggest sources of livelihood is greenhouse farming. However, its population is growing rapidly, which may bring unemployment problems in the future.

2. Yalova and culture

The local cultural policies are determined by the promotion and preservation of micro-culture in Yalova, which has been neglected due to being in the shadow of Bursa and Istanbul, as well as by sustainability in cultural and touristic projects.

Our city has become the center of very important works especially in the production of flowers and ornamental plants. Moreover, it was the first center where natural paper is produced in Turkey. Ibrahim Müteferrika Paper Museum, opened in 2013, rapidly relaunched the paper production. People of all ages and backgrounds living in our city started to show interest in the museum. Brand new products and workshops were added, and the museum’s educational activities increased over time. This line of business, which did not exist before, has started to be recognized and has received the support of every segment as it contributes to the environment.

As a museum, our goal is to make this product produced by more people, especially women and their active participation in social life; o™er training on the environment and natural productions to face potential environmental problems of the city in the future, and teach that museums are not only places to be visited, but also centers that contribute to society through activities and workshops designed all, including children and people with down syndrome.

The most important goals of the project are preserving and integrating cultural heritage while achieving eco-friendly production, creating jobs, attracting different and special education groups, promoting the city, and becoming an incentive for a sustainable economic development. 

We do not consider culture and cultural heritage as static concepts, but dynamic and connected with the present and all segments of society. The eclectic nature of the Paper Museum which combines preservation of cultural heritage, eco-friendly production, training and library, reflects the commitments of Culture 21 in many ways.

Preservation, exhibition and promotion of cultural heritage along with new paper productions back Commitment 2, while school trips to raise awareness and training/workshops directly refer to Commitment 3. On the other side, Commitment 4 is the essence of this project with its efforts for eco-friendly paper production. “Production” is a key concept here, because the museum also serves as an active paper production center (Commitment 5). Women’s participation in training, special events with disadvantaged groups in the museum support Commitment 6, and publishing, library, and research under the museum are in line with Commitment 8.

The project adapts directly to SDG 11.4, which highlights the need to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage. In this museum, visitors are able to traditionally produce their own paper and get information on history, production, protection, paper arts, Turks and Paper, paper industry, history of books and librarianship. SDG 15 and SDG 12 are also directly related to this project which intends to change consumption and production habits and carry out eco-friendly production. Moreover, the project is driven by SDG 4, since workshops and training programs for all have become an integral part of the museum.

3. Project goals and implementation

3.1. Main and specific objectives

Our general aim is the revival of cultural heritage while achieving eco-friendly production, under a living museum concept, and contributing to sustainability in an environmental manner that takes recycling into account. We need to set up new and special workshops for people with different age groups and disadvantaged citizens. As a result, we will reach more people and achieve ecological sustainability.

Specific goals

The most important goals of the project are preserving and integrating cultural heritage while achieving ecofriendly production; creating jobs, especially for the youth and women; attracting di™erent and special education groups, to make a complete production from scratch; promoting the city with our museum to contribute towards the well-being and quality of life of communities, and becoming an incentive for sustainable economic development.

Pluned tree branches, plant residues, wasted food, used old papers, old clothes and some plant-based waste materials are used for paper production. The collected materials are stored and the pulp is made through natural processes.

3.2. Project development

Main actions developed

We follow the contributions of private entrepreneurs that we have trained before. With the training, we aim to provide participants with knowledge and promote traditional paper production.

The number of visitors planned for this year is 100.000. By visiting our museum, visitors can make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy. There is a demand for natural souvenirs from museums from all over the country. However, to supply this amount of souvenirs, more workshops are required.

Pruned tree branches, plant residues, wasted food, used old papers, old clothes and some plant-based waste materials are used for paper production. The collected materials are stored and the pulp is made through natural processes. We need to build a better and bigger system that would increase our production and provide more products. Everyone can get the products and training from the museum free of charge. The fact that more people benefit from this system will help to protect our environment.

Papers developed through a completely natural production can be turned into notebooks, albums, jewellery, business cards, organizers, pens, boxes and many more products. We have done many educational activities before, with children, students, the elderly, retirees, children with special needs and prisoners, and we got positive results.

We carry out works that will help not only humans but all living creatures. We are planning to produce papers that can be used as food for street animals. We will continue our efforts to become a museum that protects nature, instils environmental awareness, teaches, lives and produces.

4. Impact

4.1. Direct impact

Our museum is affiliated with the Yalova Municipality. Since we are the only center that makes traditional paper production, we receive requests from local governments in Turkey and other countries. We provided training and workshop support to many schools. We are known especially for the projects where women entrepreneurs are supported and we bring them into socio-economic life. The city’s visitors witness environmental protection and the continuity of production in our museum. We have supported education laboratories and workshops of many universities, including scientific studies. Our visitors admire products made with plants and soils of their own origin.

Again, these different products contribute to the student’s development, especially in geography. People’s awareness regarding Ottoman paper production and cultural heritage has been raised with this museum. Also, it has promoted local economic development and disadvantaged groups’ inclusion.

The key aspect of this project is to turn the consumer society into a producer society by protecting the environment under a heritage programme.

4.2. Evaluation

This is a continuous project. As the number of our workshops increases, we will make more important contributions to our city and our country by getting more visitors. Trainees will become paper producers soon. Our works, which started with small activities at the beginning, have become the center of many scientific studies of our country and the world. It should also be noted that with this project’s promotion of cultural heritage in the region, the cultural history of Turkey hits the headlines.

4.3. Key factors

The key aspect of this project is to turn the consumer society into a producer society by protecting the environment under a heritage program. Teaching that museums can work as a school will be an example to many museums. We aim for a living museum and a producer society.

4.4. Continuity

Since we use waste materials, only the installation of the workshop has financial need. Raw materials are supplied by extracting waste from the environment. The local government is responsible for the expenses of building and employees. The continuity of the project has always been achieved.

5. Further information

Yalova was a candidate for the fourth “UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award” (November 2019 – May 2020). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2020, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Aytekin Vural, Art Historian and Paper-Maker of the Museum, Yalova, Turkey.

Contact: kemanci97 (at)

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