The museum is one the largest of its kind in Europe
Budapest Ethnographical Museum
Address: 5th district, Kossuth tér 12
How to get there: Metro M2 to Kossuth tér, Bus 15, Tram 2, Trolleybus 70, 78
Open: 10am-6pm Tue-Sun (closed on Mondays)
Sculptures on the main façade depict magistrates and legislators, because the building, now hosting the museum, was originally the Palace of Justice. Visitors entering the huge entrance hall, find the interior decoration equally beautiful, with chandeliers, marble staircases, and a magnificent ceiling fresco, depicting Justitia, the goddess of justice.
The museum is one the largest of its kind in Europe, containing 139,000 items of Hungarian origin as well as a further 53,000 items of international interest. The history of the museum goes back to the 1896 Millennial Festivities, where an Ethnographic Village was created in the City Park. Following the success of the exhibition, the clothing and furniture of the various ethnic groups represented became part of the museum's collection (the museum was at first a section in the National Museum, until it outgrew its boundaries). Famous musicians, such as Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) and Béla Bartók (1881-1945), also made substantial contributions to the folk music collection.
The permanent exhibition bears the title: Traditional Folk Culture of the Hungarians, and depicts the everyday life and festivals of the Hungarian peasantry. The exhibition occupies 13 rooms, and takes the visitor on a time journey from the end of the 18th century to the First World War. It illustrates the ethnic and religious diversity of the peoples of the Carpathian Basin, the forms of community typical of the region, traditions surrounding food and nutrition, and various handicrafts pursued by village artisans, such as the furniture-maker, blacksmith, potter, felt-maker, outer garment tailor, bookmaker, hat maker, and furrier.
Recreated scenes of a market and regional fair provides a glimpse into the traditional relationship between village and town, while two replica houses, a "smoky" house from Őrség (region bordering Austria), and a farm home from Sárköz, reveal two extremes of 19th century home interior culture. The first has a definitive medieval feel, while the second is elaborately decorated. The painted furniture, colorful textiles, and embroidered garments on display follow the development of characteristic regional styles in this section of art. The exhibition also displays original settings of a bridal trousseau in Kalotaszentkirály, and a church wedding in Kalotaszeg.
The final theme of the exhibition is the subsequent festival days of the religious calendar, revealing the intellectual richness of traditional folk culture. Caroling, carnival masquerading, Székely (Transylvanian) traveling nativity plays, and a Christmas table, in association with the year's ecclesiastical and agricultural events, are featured in this section.
Three new computer workstations were recently added to the exhibition, offering digital images, film clips, and sound files on Folk Costumes, Folk Art, and Calendar Holidays. The children can enjoy four booklets: Talking Folk Costumes, including an ethnographic map; Hey, Hunters and Fishermen, introducing a cross-section of the activities that made up peasant work life; a booklet about the difficult life of traditional herdsmen; and the last bearing the title From Wheat to Bread.