Turkey Is Bank Museum – Turkey’s first national bank

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Is Bank knows banking doesn't have to be boring!

A recent visit to the Turkey Iş Bank Museum took me back to my primary school years. I can still remember a man from the bank standing in our classroom telling us all about the merits of saving. Or some such thing. Truth be told, as an eight year old I was more interested in the shiny tin models of the national bank sitting in tempting rows, ready to be handed out when the man ever stopped talking.

I doubt even the most determined child could break into this!

The Turkey Iş Bank Museum in Istanbul displays Ottoman versions of moneyboxes that look much sturdier than my first one. Granted, it could only be cut open at the bank but I suspect the Turkish versions would have needed a blow torch and a hacksaw to get them open.

The museum has three levels of fascinating banking paraphernalia on display, and even though there are no English translations of the descriptions, it’s well worth a visit. There are postcards from the 1930s showing children how to save, as well as cartoon ads from the 1940s. My favourite is the one showing a money box with a cigarette in its hand.

Definitely not PC but still fun!

Early on Iş Bank understood the importance of branding. They produced student notebooks, presumably to give away, with the bank logo, picture and cartoons on the covers. Even today, at a table set up to show how their advertising section worked, you can stamp a picture on a piece of paper with an Iş Bank header to take home as a souvenir.

Own your own nest with Is Bank

There are dozens of posters about savings, new branch openings and buying houses on credit. Elsewhere they have a selection of television ads featuring Turkish fashion designers such as Vitali Hakko, the man behind the Vakko label and actors like Cem Yilmaz portraying famous director, actor and producer Servet Bey who made early advertisements for the bank. One section is dedicated to original bank fixtures such as teller booths and other furnishings. They even have the first Bankamatik ads from 1982.

Down in the vaults of the Is Bank Museum

I have to be honest though and say my favourite section was downstairs in the vault. There’s a long corridor with hundreds of numbers projected on the floor. They move like figures scrolling through on an old fashioned computer screen. There are sounds effects of coins clinking, the flicking noise of paper money being counted by machines at high speed. It’s a bit disconcerting and throws one off balance, especially when someone suddenly appears around the corner. When this happened both of us jumped in fright because we weren’t expecting to see anyone else.

Phew, that was hard to open!
Is bank Museum vault - an Aladdin's cave of Turkish treasures

The corridor leads to a room full of bank deposit boxes, some open showing deposit boxes, others fronted with Perspex to protect the personal treasures inside – cut glass perfume bottles, Meerschaum pipes and so on. Further on there are massive safes with doors a foot or more wide.

Back upstairs I farewelled the friendly security guards and went on my way, happy to have relived a bit of my childhood and learned something more about Turkey’s fascinating history.

If you enjoyed this post and want to visit more of Istanbul’s less promoted sights, you’ll find another 49 suggestions, complete with their histories, entry fees and how to get there by public transport, in my alternative travel guide, Istanbul 50 Unsung Places.

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  1. Thanks Lisa, an interesting read. Will add it to visits for next time, I presume there are set opening hours.

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