Halet Çambel was born in Berlin in 1916. Her mother was Remziye Hanım, the daughter of ambassador İbrahim Hakkı Paşa, and her father was Hasan Cemil Bey, who was an attache in Berlin at the time of their daughter's birth. The Çambel family returned to Turkey in 1924, after living in Switzerland and Austria following the First World War. Having graduated from Arnavutköy American College for Girls in İstanbul in 1935, Halet started her archaeology education at Sorbonne University in Paris with a scholarship she received from the French Government. During her graduate studies, Çambel was involved in fencing and horse riding. In 1936, she joined the Berlin Olympics at the request of Atatürk and became the first Turkish female athlete to participate in the Olympics, along with Suat Fetgeri Aşeni. In 1938, Çambel began her doctoral studies at the Sorbonne. In the following year she joined the excavation in Yazılıkaya-Midas. Unable to return to France due to the Second World War, Çambel received her doctorate from İstanbul University in 1944. Having participated in many archaeological studies and researches in Anatolia, Çambel joined the Karatepe-Aslantaş excavations in 1947. Following their completion she worked for the preservation, restoration and exhibition of the excavated artifacts and took active part in the establishment of Karatepe-Aslantaş National Park, Turkey's first open-air museum. In 1960, she founded the the Department of Prehistory at İstanbul University and acted as the chair of the department. After the military coup in 1960, Çambel gave lectures in Germany, and in 1963, after her return to Turkey, she again became the chair of the department and occupied this post until her retirement in 1984. Çambel was the recipient of many awards and an honorary doctorate from Boğaziçi University in 2005. She died in İstanbul in January 2014.
Nail Çakırhan was born in Ula in 1910. He studied at Konya High School, where he took classes from Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar. He started to write poetry in high school and began to publish his poems in Kervan magazine in Konya. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at İstanbul University where he enrolled in both medicine and law, before dropping out of both to pursue studies in literature. During his years at the Faculty of Literature, he started work at Resimli Ay journal on Nazım Hikmet's suggestion. He also worked as a proofreader at Cumhuriyet newspaper and continued to write poetry. In 1930, together with Hikmet, he published a joint poetry book called 1 + 1 = Bir. After being imprisoned in 1932–33, Çakırhan went to the Soviet Union in 1934. In 1937, when the Soviet Union asked foreign students to return home due to the imminent danger of war, he returned to Turkey. In 1938, he began working at the Tan newspaper. The same year, he met archaeologist Halet Çambel and the two decided to get married. In 1946, he worked as the secretary of the Görüşler magazine, published by Sabiha and Zekeriya Sertel. The architectural experience of Çakırhan dates back to the days of Karatepe excavations in which Halet Çambel participated with Professor Bossert. Çakırhan helped to build the open air museum, an excavation house and other buildings. In 1963, he built the Turkish Historical Society building in Ankara, designed by Turgut Cansever. He also undertook the construction of German High School in İstanbul, and built an excavation house in Ergani where Halet Çambel was participating in excavations. In 1983, he won the Aga Khan Architecture Prize, one of the world's most prestigious architectural awards, for his wooden houses. A pioneer of environmentally friendly architecture, Nail Çakırhan died in Muğla in October 2008.
The center will be located in “Halet Çambel Yalısı” in Arnavutköy, also known as the historic "Red Yalı", which was restored by Boğaziçi University with the support of the Ministry of Development. The "Red Yalı", where Professor Halet Çambel and Nail Çakırhan lived for more than half a century, is a unique example of the late Ottoman settlement structure, architectural culture and landscape/garden organization, at a time when the influence of western features started to be felt in architecture. The archive, which will be housed in the Center, consists of approximately 150,000 documents, 40,000 photographs, 10,000 pieces of official correspondence, 20,000 pages of letters, 8000 books, 3000 journals and 3000 different prints. The archive includes personal documents of Çambel and Çakırhan, archaeological excavation archives, architectural works, and materials left from Karatepe excavations, plans, drawings, photographs and the library of Leyla Hanım, the sister of Halet Çambel. In addition to these documents, the archives include documents belonging to Çambel’s grandfather İbrahim Hakkı Paşa, who worked as Minister of Education, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs as well as ambassador at embassies in Rome and Berlin, and her father Hasan Cemil Çambel, who was an MP between the years 1928–50 and the director of the Turkish History Society after the death of the founding member Yusuf Akçura. The documents in the archive are in Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, English, French, Italian, Russian and Bulgarian.