From drawing board to repository - Architects' collections in Budapest City Archives
Emese Kún  1@  
1 : Budapest City Archives

As a pioneer of ferro-concrete, István Medgyaszay is a significant figure of Hungarian architecture of the 20th century. His œuvre builds a bridge between the romantic ideas born at the fin-de-siècle infused with nationalist temperament and the clear forms of the modernist movement. From the archivist's point of view the inheritance of his plans, drawings, personal documents and photographs makes a uniquely intact private collection. The way it got preserved through the last few trying decades behind the walls of a cottage in a hidden corner of Budapest is remarkable. This story also offers us a brief glimpse into the operation of the socialist regime in our country, as well as into its heritage policy and the remainders of its bureaucratic attitude.

At the end of this road full of vicissitudes Budapest City Archives was given the trust and honour by the heirs to provide this material safe and professional preservation. The family remained the full legal owner whilst our institution took over the duties of sorting, restoration, digitization and publication within the framework of a long term deposit. From the wooden drawers of a moldy, humid room it got transferred to a clean storage space with air conditioning. Its diversity and previous categorization confronted us with numerous challenges. However, the main goal stood without doubt: a consciously built online platform to present the collection in a visually appealing, innovative, user-friendly way and at the same time to make it available for further historical research. 

The team of Budapest City Archives has gathered major experience in digitizing and making publicly available archival documents of different types. The presentation of my colleague, Ágnes Telek elaborates this topic to a larger extent.

In recent years we launched a project to update and standardize the previously created four websites dedicated to four thematically sorted groups of documents. Two ‘virtual archives' are devoted to the life and works of Hungarian architects in the 19th and 20th century (Miklós Ybl and Béla Lajta). In collaboration with the Hungarian Museum of Architecture a collection relating to the work of Károly Kós enriched this palette in 2019. The two other websites concentrate more on historically significant tendencies and events than personalities. The habitation portal presents lavishly illustrated essays about the apartment and apartment building types of Budapest in the interwar period, the second website shares personal memories of Holocaust.

On the basis of the methodology developed we were able to construct a plan of the new digital archives as a virtual home for the Medgyaszay documents.

Why do the municipal archives aspire to preserve a heritage of national significance? How does an institution profit from the restoration, digitization and publication of a private collection? How to construct a virtual platform for a private heritage? What are the crucial points and challenges by planning such an extensive project? In my case study I seek and offer answers for these fascinating issues.


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