The Ethnography Museum is located in the district of Ankara called Namazgâh, on the hill where there was a Muslim necropolis. The General Directorate of Foundations donated this hill to the Ministry of Public Education for the construction of a Museum in accordance with a government decision dated 15 November 1925.
A special commission to collect and purchase artifacts was established in İstanbul, headed by Prof. Celal Esad (Arseven) in 1924 and by Halil Ethem (Eldem), Director of İstanbul Museums in 1925. 1250 artifacts were exhibited in the Museum, which was finished in 1927. Hamit Zübeyr Koşay was appointed as the Museum Director.
On 15 April 1928, Gazi Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk) visited the Museum and requested that it be opened on the occasion of the visit of Afghan King Amanullah Han. The Museum was opened on 18 July 1930. In November 1938 the inner courtyard was reserved as a temporary mausoleum for Atatürk, who lay here until he was transferred to his Mausoleum in 1953. This section is kept as a symbolic mausoleum in respect for Atatürk’s memory. The inscription on the white marble reads as follows: “This is the place where Atatürk, who passed from this life on 10.11.1938, rested from 21.11.1938 to 10.11.1953.”
The Ethnography Museum served as a mausoleum for 15 years. It was visited by presidents, ambassadors, and foreign delegations, as well as by the public. Between 1953 and 1956, renovations were carried out and other preparations made for the International Museum Week, which took place from 6-14 November 1956.Arif Hikmet (Koyunoğlu), the architect of the building, is one of the most renowned architects of the early Republican Period.
The building has a rectangular plan with a single dome. The stone walls are covered with coarse sandstone, and the marble pediment has carved decoration.
The building is approached by a stair of 28 steps. The entrance is tripartite, with four columns. The portal leads to a hall beneath the dome and to a colonnaded inner courtyard.
There was originally a marble pool in the middle of the courtyard, and the roof was open. After its use as the temporary mausoleum of Atatürk, however, the roof was covered and the pool transferred to the garden. Large and small symmetrical halls surround the inner courtyard. The two-storey administrative section is adjacent to the Museum.
At the request of the Ministry of Public Education in 1927, the Italian artist B. Conanica made the bronze statue of Atatürk that stands in front of the Museum.Exhibited in the Ethnography Museum are examples of Turkish art dating from the Seljuk Period till modern day.
To the right of the entrance of the Museum are the hall in which the Anatolian wedding ceremony is explained and bridal dresses from various cities of Anatolia are exhibited, the hall displaying examples and techniques of Turkish embroidery, the hall exhibiting samples of Turkish carpets and rugs, and the hall in which Anatolian coffee culture and the circumcision ceremony are explained.
To the left of the entrance are the section of tile and glass artifacts, the hall in which the objects donated by Besim Atalay are exhibited, the hall in which examples of Ottoman Calligraphic Art are displayed, and the halls containing some of the finest wooden artifacts from the Seljuk Period and the period of the Principalities.