Our Engineering Past Goes Digital
Jun 06, 2017


Our university is transferring its ITU Rare Books Collection, which hosts the oldest sources in engineering, into digital media. Researchers will now be able to access all of these works, which are regarded as an unparalleled treasure, online at ITU Libraries.

Our university is also opening invaluable engineering resources written in the Ottoman and early Republican periods in the digital environment. Our Rector, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Karaca stated that our archives, which contain approximately 6,000 books and periodicals belonging to the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th, centuries, have finally been transferred to digital media after great effort. In addition, he gave the good news that researchers will soon be able to benefit from this unique collection, and that upon completion of this process, knowledge which is not on the internet or in encyclopedias today will become available, shining a light on Turkey's engineering past.

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Works reflecting Turkey's engineering knowledge

Noting that our university is not only a technical school, but also a store of past Turkish engineering, our Rector stated that this academic heritage, which will be opened to researchers, will be the source for writing new works. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Karaca added that the transferred sources have a wide variety including works of engineering, history, literature, sociology and arts produced in the Ottoman Empire, humor magazines published by engineering students, lecture notes from the era, railway routes established during the Ottoman Empire, and contracts, plans, projects and maps of infrastructure projects such as electricity, and trams.

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Noting that the new generation is doing all of their research on digital platforms today, our Rector shared his thoughts with these words: "There is very little information available on the internet today about Hoca İshak Efendi, known as the chief engineer of Turkey. Likewise, information about the work and publications of Distinguished Prof. Dr. Fikri Santur, who served our university for 43 years, is also not readily available. Santur, who has also performed strength calculations for many buildings, including Şişli Mosque, has contributed over 30 copyrighted and translated works to his country's engineering knowledge. The digital archive will also feature the first female engineers of Turkey, trained at our university, shining a light on our social and cultural history.”

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Karaca: “ITU is the living museum of Turkish modernization history.”


Our Rector reminded everyone that our university is a milestone in the modernization process of our country, and that the scientists and engineers educated at ITU have contributed greatly to the construction of Turkey; our university is an important institution with a history of engineering and technical education that spans two centuries, stretching from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic. Emphasizing that our university has produced innumerable pioneers in the development of modern Turkey including statesmen, businessmen, and bureaucrats, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Karaca underscored the historic duty we undertook during the modernization process of our country. Our Rector commented on this point with the following words: "The institutional history of ITU and the intellectual memory and environment it possesses represent a very valuable accumulation of the codes of an almost 250-year-old modernization of our society. I hope that the archive of what is essentially a living museum of Turkish modernization, will be beneficial to our country and the world."

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Photographs, humor magazines, unique musical scores

Included in the ITU Rare Books Collection, are works from the library established by Sultan Selim III in 1793, among them, sources related to military technology and science, technical books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and books on history, geography, and language education, in addition to other rare works from maps and geographical materials to music archives, totaling 7363 reference works. There is even a handwritten manuscript of the astronomy book "Menâzil", written in Edirne in 1515 by the astronomer and mathematician, Ali Kuşçu amongst the collection.

Also of interest among the other important pieces of the collection, is the humor and literature magazine "Şaka ", published by engineering students between 1909 and 1928. The magazine gives very important clues about engineering education at the period, and also includes highly valuable cartoons and drawings. Books handed over from Topkapı Palace and the Hamidiye Library, as well as a photo album from Ganz Electric Company which was granted the privilege of providing electricity to Istanbul in 1910, and many other valuable items will be available for access from this digital archive.

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Other collections to be transferred to the digital center besides the ITU Rare Books Collection are as follows:

The ITU Digital Map and Geographical Materials Collection: A collection of sources mostly donated by Prof. Dr. Celal Sengör of the Eurasia Institute of Earth Sciences, including 5000 maps related to geology. The collection consists of maps drawn up in different languages ranging from Hebrew to Dutch, particularly in Turkish, Chinese, Russian, English, Bulgarian, Arabic, Portuguese, Catalan, and Hungarian.

The ITU TMDK Digital Music Archive: The archive contains a collection of music scores from a master of the kemencha (three-stringed violin), and a founder of the ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory (ITU TMDK), Cüneyd Orhon. This private collection dedicated to ITU TMDK Ercümend Berker Library by Orhon's family in 2014, without counting duplicates, consists of 748 oral and 524 instrumental works. Orhon stands out as one of the most important features of the collection on the back page of each work on the sources used, and the notes that are written down by hand. Another important feature of the collection is Orhon’s handwritten notes on the back pages of the source works he used.