History Foundation is working to expand historical awareness in Turkey

History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı) received grant and capacity development support from our Institutional Fund to strengthen its financial sustainability by employing a fundraising expert, developing new fundraising strategies such as improving its loyalty program “Friends of History”, and increasing its individual donor base.

Read below our interview:

As the History Foundation, you have been working on oral history for a long time. What is oral history? How can oral history help to understand today’s problems and produce solutions?

Examining a country’s model of history education can provide a deep insight into a society’s current attitudes and perceptions of pluralism, justice, peace, and democracy. In conflict and post-conflict situations, however, such an analysis can shed light on how the construction of historical narratives can act as one of the driving forces underlying the conflict within and between societies. There have been many academic studies on how conflict narratives, conflict-promoting teaching methodologies and extra-curricular activities in history education can contribute to the formation of monolithic nationalist identities that follow hostile and antagonistic attitudes, rhetoric and actions towards groups and communities perceived as “other”.

There is a close connection between the goals of transition to an information society, the creation of a pluralistic understanding of culture, the establishment of a culture of peace and democratisation, and the modernisation of our education system and, in this context, the adaptation of educational materials to respect human rights. Raising active, responsible, and participatory citizens is possible by harmonising the education system and textbooks with this goal.

Modern democratic society consists of citizens who can think critically, question, and establish cause-effect relationships. A didactic education approach is insufficient to equip the information society. The restructuring of history education in this direction can only be possible by strengthening the capacity of future history educators to identify and solve these problems.

Modern democratic society consists of citizens who can think critically, question, and establish cause-effect relationships.

It is precisely at this point that the importance of oral history becomes more apparent. Oral history is an interdisciplinary approach that compiles the knowledge of the past that remains in the memory of the present in a wide range of fields ranging from social history to political and economic history. Oral history research has led to the democratisation of historiography. It has enabled different socio-economic and cultural groups and women, who have been excluded in social historiography, to be the subject of historiography and contributed directly to the expansion of the field. The compilation of life narratives provides access to information that cannot be determined by written-document-based history and brings ordinary people’s memories to the forefront in historiography in accordance with scientific consistency.

With oral history, historical information about a certain period can be produced around a certain theme, based on the testimonies of different social groups in a certain society. For example, disappearing crafts such as silk weaving and coppersmithing, etc., can be researched through life narratives, while the local history of a small settlement can also be the subject of research. Similarly, it is possible to compare/contrast “generations” in a certain society and to write the histories of periods of social-economic trauma in ordinary lives. History ceases to be a field of abstraction without human beings, it takes on a human form with different life experiences.

You have been carrying out awareness-raising, communication and visibility activities with a holistic interpretation of human rights through the Journal of Social History. Can you tell us about the scope of your activities and their contribution to raising awareness?

The activities we carry out through the Journal affect the way we address social problems and propose solutions. History, historiography and the perception of history itself directly emerge as a social, cultural and political problem. It is decisive in the socialisation of generations, both at the educational and popular culture levels. Today in Turkey, the approach to and perception of history has been ideologised to an enormous extent and has been subjected to short-term political and ideological interests. This perception of history, which is undemocratic, biased, and insensitive to human rights, manifests itself in all fields from education to the media, from historical science to daily popular culture production.

Oral history research has led to the democratisation of historiography.

We define historical awareness in a way that includes the perception of the present, the interpretation of the past and the expectations of the future and consider the dissemination of historical awareness as an important component of increasing the capacity of societies to solve their problems. History Foundation believes that conducting studies with such an approach will contribute to the development of participatory democracy in Turkey. The Foundation fulfils these social functions by conducting, commissioning, and supporting all kinds of research, education, library-archiving activities, printed and electronic publications, documentary films, radio and television programs, artistic and literary products, museology, scientific meetings, cultural tourism, and similar activities.

The History Foundation works in solidarity with all individuals, groups, initiatives, and organisations, especially scientific, educational, and artistic institutions, engaged in parallel activities within Turkey and abroad. It carries out joint projects and studies with these institutions aiming to extend its relations outside the major cities and establish strong public support based on volunteerism. It is also a resource for researchers working in social sciences, students, journalists, individuals aiming to write family history, and anyone who needs different kinds of materials for comparative research as their research fields expand.

Which organisational development areas have you focused on with the grant and the capacity development support provided by the Institutional Fund?

We aimed to strengthen our financial and organisational structure with this grant. With our fundraising expert, employed with this grant, we aimed to diversify and increase our income sources, develop new projects and apply for research funds. We also aimed to conduct communication activities for our publications and products to reach a wider audience. In this context, we held monthly online meetings with our mentor, Betül Selcen Özer. We can list the strategies developed thanks to these meetings as follows: 

We worked on our fundraising strategies in the short, medium, and long term. Our policies and procedures for fundraising, our priorities in fundraising methods, and our communication policies in parallel with these were determined. The number of our grant applications increased. We made eight new applications, and corporate history and local history project proposals for public institutions and private sector organisations were also prepared upon request. We created a social media communication strategy in line with our principles, aims, and activities, and we started to publish social history facts on social media regularly in parallel with current issues.

Today in Turkey, the approach to and perception of history has been ideologised to an enormous extent and has been subjected to short-term political and ideological interests.

You contributed to the creation of the Dinyakos 2.0 campaign in cooperation with 4129Grey and Socrates Magazine. Can you tell us about the scope of this cooperation and its contributions to your work?

In our meetings with Socrates Magazine and 4129 Gray, we planned to tell the story of the Dinyakos boot, a local innovation that enabled the legendary names of football in Turkey to play better football. To explain Dinyakos to the new generation of football fans, the Dinyakos 2.0 patch, which can be worn in FIFA 21, was created by a digital designer, in the light of the information given by the last Dinyakos master İbrahim Yoney.

The campaign went live with a movie featuring the brand’s history. The patch and the installation guide have been published at Socrates Magazine. The website, designed with an emphasis on the nostalgic texture of the brand, also included information from the history of Dinyakos. The campaign, which combined old and new, reality and digital, was introduced to the audience on Socrates Studio’s program with Mehmet Demirkol and Kaan Kural. This project was awarded at the 16th Felis Awards.

How has the support you received from the Institutional Fund contributed to your work? Do you have a message for our donors who support the fund?

One of the issues we realised was that we did not have a social impact measurement plan. For this purpose, while preparing a financial sustainability plan, we also developed impact measurement methods in line with our activities and communication channels.

The target audience of the History Foundation consists of students, teachers, academics, and the general public. Most of our social media followers are between the ages of 25-34 and most of them are women. While the age range of our history friends is around 35-40, the average age of our trustees is around 55. Despite this diversity, we did not have a specific communication strategy for each target audience. For this reason, the need for a communication plan in line with our financial sustainability plan arose, and we worked on this with our mentor. We defined the communication principles of our Foundation.

Our goal for the future is to make this strategic planning effective with the influence of the fundraising commission. The first thing to do for this is to create a 5-year strategic plan.

About the History Foundation

History Foundation aims to develop and disseminate historical awareness in Turkey by bringing new content and richness to the way people view history and realising the protection of historical heritage with a deep-rooted sensitivity and with the participation of broad segments of society. The Foundation supports and encourages critical and alternative studies and research by students, teachers and academics, and publishes books and the Journal of Social History to provide resources for researchers.