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In search of folk traditions

Open-Air Ethnographic Museum in Szentendre
Szentendre
Greater Budapest

Our modern world is gradually replacing old traditional country life, but traditions are still kept alive. Many museums and open-air ethnographic museums in Hungary are dedicated to preserving folk art.

These folk art museums and open-air ethnographic museums serve to conserve traditional architecture, costumes and motifs, as well as the countryside traditions of the different regions of Hungary. These museums present folk artwork in their original environment. Our open-air ethnographic museums play the most important role in this conservation work, for they are repositories of traditional houses conserved in their original condition together with their furniture, and with this they can transport us back to the times when city life was not as widespread as it is today.

Open-Air Ethnographic Museum in Szentendre

Treasures of motifs kept in museums

There are several Hungarian regions that have specialised museums dedicated to folk art in order to conserve traditional motif treasures. A large part of the collections kept at the Matyó Museum in Mezőkövesd and the Palóc Museum in Balassagyarmat present the costumes, textiles, furniture and pots, and also the artefacts of folk religion and customs and traditions typical for the two regions and ethnic groups. Matyó folk art was listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2012. The collection of the Reguly Antal Museum and House of Arts and Crafts in Zirc focuses on presenting traditional small folk trades and their tools: its warehouse is home to many tools that were once used by traditional blacksmiths, wheelwrights, coppersmiths and shoemakers.

 

The collection at the Túri Fazekas Museum in Mezőtúr consists of 8,000 items of pottery, which make it the largest such collection in Hungary, and it focuses on presenting pottery and folk art pots and other items of pottery. The 1,000 items of the Museum of Hungarian Applied Folk Art – which operates as part of the House of Traditions in Budapest – exhibits the history, the artists and trends of applied folk art. Museums in both Budapest and the countryside organise events to promote folk art, and museum educational activities for kids.

Return to the past

There are many open-air ethnographic museums all around the country, where visitors can experience traditional country life in its original environment. The Open-Air Ethnographic Museum in Szentendre presents the traditional houses, community, sacred and farm buildings of the different regions of Hungary as they were in the 18th to 20th century, with a focus on the typical dwellings in each region. However, other similar open-air ethnographic museums in other parts of the country are usually more closely linked to typical local features and they conserve the country life culture typical for that given region. The Open-Air Ethnographic Museum in Szenna presents the folk architecture of Somogy county and Zselic hills and the one in Nagyvázsony presents the history of Bakony and Balaton Uplands, while the Göcsej Open-Air Ethnographic Museum in Zalaegerszeg presents the history of the villages in Zala county: visitors can see, for example, what a typical barn in Nagykutas, also called ‘torkos pajta’, or the pálinka distiller’s hut in Csöde, looked like. In the Őrség region, the archaic thatched roofed buildings of Őrség were left in their original place and thus were organised into a museum village in Szalafő, Pityerszer.

 

The Sóstó Village Museum in Nyíregyháza is home to a collection of folk architectural items from Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county. The Vasi Museum Village in Szombathely has a collection of dwellings and other buildings that were used by different ethnic groups, such as Hungarians, Germans, Croats and Slovenes, in 27 villages in Vas county. The open-air ethnographic collection within the National Heritage Park in Ópusztaszer consists of 19 buildings from different parts of the country, giving visitors a glimpse of the traditions of these regions, how people lived in villages and farms, and what trades they practised in the 19th century. Hollókő – a UNESCO World Heritage site village – has conserved the typical features of a Palóc village from the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, the whole village is an open-air ethnographic museum where folk tradition has remained a part of everyday life.

 

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