For generations, historians of the Ottoman Empire and its former territories in the Balkans and the Arab Middle East participated in a rite of passage linking them to the Ottoman bureaucrats they studied. Going to work at the Ottoman Archives (Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi) entailed the humbling experience of passing through the famous gates at Bab-ı Ali, or as it came to be known in the West, the Sublime Porte. During Ottoman times, Bab-ı Ali housed the offices of the Grand Vizier and the heart of the Ottoman bureaucracy. Indeed, the term Bab-ı Ali came to be synonymous with the state itself. With their location just steps from Topkapı Palace and the imperial gardens that now make up Gülhane Park, one’s daily commute to the Ottoman archives, housed in a cluster of nineteenth-century buildings just inside the confines of the Sublime Porte, often felt like stepping into the shoes of one’s historical subjects. Naturally, the decision to move Ottoman archival collections to a new location was met with considerable feelings of melancholy and disappointment.
Read More: Opening of the New Ottoman Archives