The multiplication of antique dealers seems like a relatively new development in Ankara. Until recently, I think most people around here would probably have identified with the sentiments of Orhan Pamuk’s narrator in The Museum of Innocence:
“The Ashamed collect purely for the sake of collecting. Like the Proud, they begin … in pursuit of an answer, a consolation, even a palliative for a pain, a resolution of difficulty, or simply out of a dark compulsion. But living in societies where collecting is not a reputable act that contributes to learning or knowledge, the Ashamed regard their compulsion as an embarrassment that must be hidden. Because in the lands of the Ashamed, collections point not to a bit of useful information but rather to a wound the ashamed collector bears.”
This is not to say that most people in Turkey are ashamed or wounded, more than those in other parts of the world. I think people in different cultures carry their wounds in different places. But tolerance towards the idea of collecting for collecting’s sake speaks of tolerance for a luxury mindset: the idea that it’s okay to have many things you don’t need. In Ankara, it’s not hard to walk into little hidden shops that blur the lines between thrift store, junk shop and overflowing attic storage space. But as Turkey’s economic situation continues to improve, we see more and more sidewalk scenes like this one downtown: upscale antique stores with upscale prices, collecting pieces of handwork and history from an old Eastern culture and marketing them to well-heeled clientele on what seems a new, and Western, model.