Merinos Textile Industry Museum


   Bursa had been a convenient city for establishment of a textile factory with its geographical situation, climate conditions, qualified labour potential and weaving tradition which remained since the Ottoman period. One of the first industrialization samples established by the state; Merinos Wool Weaving Factory was designed by German architects on 262.000 m2 land and opened on 2nd February 1938; 15 years after the foundation of Turkish Republic. This factory had the most advanced system of the Balkans and the Middle East and employed 17.500 workers during the time it was active. When Turkey’s financial and social conditions after its Independence War between the two world wars are considered, Merinos Wool Weaving Factory, which also employed wide number of women, developed a contemporary labour understanding for the country in terms of social and cultural level. Comparing to the other factories in that period in Turkey, it had unique facilities for its employees such as tennis court, football ground, swimming pool, cinema and kindergarten. In republic period, first labour union formed and first collective insurance agreements were signed at this factory. During its history the workers went on strike only once. European engineers provided every support in order to develop the factory and beyond being a factory, it served as a “yarn and wool weaving faculty” for the workers and trainees. It was an honour for the employees to work at this factory which was established by Atatürk; the founder of the Turkish Republic, such that on the gravestones of some passed away workers “Retired from Merinos Factory” is written.

   Merinos Wool Weaving Factory, which provided the major contribution to Turkish economy especially in 1960s, could not catch the fast developing technology. It was closed in 2004 and passed to Bursa Metropolitan Municipality. After that, in order to preserve this industrial heritage, the factory building as well as its field was transformed to a culture complex by focusing on museology understanding after detailed restoration and reconstruction works which made the complex an important cultural value for Turkey. When the complex served as a factory, it only had effect on workers’ social life but after the transformation and opening in 2009, Merinos Atatürk Congress and Culture Centre impressed all residents of Bursa in terms of cultural and social life.

The factory building was functionalized as traditional handicrafts education centre, conservatory, traditional music research centre, Gypsy music culture centre, exhibition galleries, city council, cafe, fair field, textile restoration atelier and Textile Industry Museum. The preparation work of Numismatics Museum and Migration Museum continues. The power plant of the factory, which also provided the partial electricity necessity of the city, was transformed into Bursa Merinos Energy Museum within the scope of the project. Registered buildings like Timekeeping, Director’s Office, Water Tower, Cooling Tower, Kindergarten, Cafeteria and Warehouse were also given social and cultural functions. In addition to all these, recreation areas like park, sports area, kindergarten, restaurant and establishment of Atatürk Congress and Culture Centre which was a necessity to welcome national and international festivals, conferences, fairs is an important socio-cultural benefit for Bursa.

Merinos Textile Industry Museum, being the first and the unique textile industry museum of Turkey, was opened on 14th of October, 2011. The transformation of a factory which completed its production life to a museum was a new understanding in our country. The aim is to tell new generations the republic period’s industrial movements and development of textile in Bursa. During the transformation process, warehouse and factory buildings were examined thoroughly for the collection of museum and in the end, machines and equipment, which produced hundreds of thousands of meters long fabrics and yarns for 66 years, revived. Besides the technical features of the factory, Merinos was also exhibited with its social aspect. The employees, who served for the factory for years, supported this transformation by sharing their personal goods along with their memories which they consider them as precious treasures and kept in their chests such as badges, photography archive, sewing machines and overalls.

The museum was established at the washing department which was considered as the heart of the factory and located on 7000 m2 area spread over two floors. The museum is divided into four main sections as work stream was taken into consideration: Preliminary (tops); yarn; weaving and laboratories; clothing, dye and finish. In these sections, the processes of growing up the Merinos sheep, obtaining the wool and the whole story until the wool becomes a fabric are told; the working system of the factory with various brand 80 machines produced in 1930s, 1950s and 1970s in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and England are explained. Sometimes factory’s retired workers become volunteers as guides, so that the memories stay alive.

A large exhibition hall in the museum was created for cocoon production with the aim of reawaken the silkworm breeding which had been a major trading in Bursa at the period of Ottomans and identified with Bursa city. At this section, history of silk in the world and in Bursa as well as the story of silk from silkworm breeding to woven silk fabric are told. The processes are shown practically with the silk weaving looms. Furthermore, a rich collection of goods which are made of silk fabrics are exhibited. Silk workshops are organized in the training room at this section.

Turkish textile culture has got a rich collection in terms of archaeology and ethnography and Bursa’s traditional textile handicrafts have important role on this. However, the textile handicrafts used as clothing and decoration like hand woven  fabrics, hand printing fabrics, carpets and kilims, embroideries, laceworks, knitting, fibre arts like silk, wool, angora and felt have been displaced with their degenerated samples. Existing original traditional works are being sold -and disappeared- as touristic souvenirs and new generation is unaware of this cultural richness. Therefore “Tangible and Intangible Textile Culture Heritage” project is carried out with Bursa Metropolitan Municipality Bursa Research Centre. Within this scope, interviews are made with the villagers who continue producing traditional handicrafts. Their works and production techniques are being archived with photos and video records in the museum. In addition to this, with this project, the collection of the museum is being enriched by the donations of the villagers.

One of the principles of Merinos Textile Industry Museum is the accessibility of the museum for disabled visitors: There is a ramp way at the front entrance, a special elevator and WC. One guide of the museum learned sign language which helps the hearing impaired visitors.

Bursa Merinos Textile Industry Museum which is established and financed by Bursa Metropolitan Municipality employs 1 manager, 1 co-ordinator, 1 art historian, 1 textile technician, 2 guides, 1 press and public relations officer, 3 security staff. The museum carries on mutual projects with other museums in the city, Bursa Research centre, City Council, Industry Chambers, Turkish Union of Historical Towns and ÇEKÜL (The Foundation for the Protection and Promotion of the Environment and Cultural Heritage) and some other NGOs.

The Museum was awarded with Sivilay Great Prize in 2011 and Turkish Union of Historical Towns Great Prize in 2012 due to its effort for preservation of industrial heritage.