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Florence Nightingale and the FN Museum

In the October of 1854 when war was declared against Russia Miss Nightingale with 38 nurses traveled to Istanbul to organize a nursing unit to care for the wounded from the Crimean battle front.

On arrival she found 2,300 wounded already installed in the Selimiye Military Barracks at Uskudar (Scudari). Within weeks the numbers rose to 10,000 wounded Turkish, French and British soldiers. She saw the over crowding of the wards, corridor and even the towers. She believed that the bad sanitary arrangements (common to all hospitals at that time) plus the overcrowding were responsive for the frightening mortality rate.

During her two years at Uskudar she organized a new type of war hospital, laying the foundations of modern nursing case.

To this day she is known as "The lady of the lamp", this phrase was coined by the wounded men who looked forward to her nightly visits as she made her way through the maze of corridors and wards, lighting her way with a candle lamp.

At the end of the Crimean war the Barracks reverted to the purpose it was built for. An impressive building built in 1800 can easily be seen from the European shore, situated at the entrance of the Bosphorus on the Anatolian side.

The Florence Nightingale Museum

The museum is opened in memory of the English nurse Florence Nightingale who came to Istanbul in 1854 to tend the Turkish and allied soldiers of the Crimean War. The hospital was at the Selimiye Barracks and now the room in the northwest tower has been turned into a museum.

The exhibits include Florence Nightingale's personal belongings, photographs, certificates, medallions and the bracelet that Sultan Abdulmecid presented to her.

Florence Nightingale Müzesi
Selimiye Kislasi, Usküdar
(216) 343 73 10
Open daily between 09:00-16:00, except at weekends
Can be visited with special permission only

The Florence Nightingale Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, is housed in Selimiye Barracks within the Peace Headquarters of the Turkish First Army Command on an active military base. In 1954, to mark the centennial of her arrival in Crimea, the Turkish Federation of Nurses converted her rooms in the tower to a museum. While there is some controversy as to which tower Florence Nightingale occupied during the Crimean War, the museum occupies two floors in the Northwest tower.

The second floor of the museum contains memorabilia of Florence Nightingale as well as more current artifacts related to nurses and nursing. In the life size tableau of Miss Nightingale bending over a soldier, she holds a lamp. It doesn't look at all like the Aladdin's lamp we are accustomed to seeing. It can be better described as a paper lantern.
The ground floor of the museum has Army memorabilia as well as life size tableaux of Turkish soldiers from the Crimean war to the Turkish War of Independence (1919 - 1922). The tableau of the Crimean War includes a statue of Miss Nightingale and is directly below the winding staircase up to the second floor.

Even though this museum is much smaller than the one in London, it is well worth seeing for lovers of nursing history. Each year a group of Japanese nursing students visits the museum as part of a special nursing visit. There are between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors annually. Each visitor can sign a guest book.

Visiting the museum, however, is not easy. Since it is on an active military base, security is high. Potential visitors must request permission and supply a copy of their passports 48 hours in advance. Once there, the visitor must pass a security check and hand in his/her camera and cell phone. The visitor is escorted by a soldier to the barracks where he/she is met by the Protocol Officer. The Protocol Officer takes the visitor on a tour of the museum. Several military guards accompany the officer and the visitor.

From a Mary Lou Bernardo's viewpoint, it was very poignant to be in this museum and know that Miss Nightingale's work with wounded soldiers was continuing at that very moment in neighboring Iraq, less than 800 miles away. I wondered what she would be thinking.

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