Address: 8th district, Múzeum körút 14-16
How to get there: Metro M2 to Astoria or M3 to Kálvin tér, Tram 47-49
Open: 10am-6pm, except for Nov 1-Feb 28, when closing at 4pm, closed on Mondays
The museum was founded in 1802, when Count Ferenc Széchényi offered his rich collection of 11884 prints, 1156 manuscripts, 142 books, maps and copperplates to the nation, which collection was first placed in the Pauline monastery in Pest. It was subsequently moved into its present location, a fine neo-Classical building, designed by Mihály Pollack, built between 1837 and 1847. With this, it became the largest museum in Hungary, the area covering over 8000 square meters. Today, it is responsible for the safe keeping of over a million objects.
Rafael Monti produced the sculptures of the tympanum, including a female personification of Pannonia on a throne in the middle, holding laurel wreaths in her hands; geniuses of art and scholarship to her right, and allegoric figures of history and fame to her left. The figures in the far right and left corners represent two major rivers, the Dráva (now flowing outside of Hungary's borders) and the Duna (Danube). In 1875, Károly Lotz and Mór Than finished their monumental, allegoric paintings on the walls and ceilings.
The Museum's garden was an important scene of the revolution of 1848. It was from the steps of this building on March 15, that the famous Hungarian poet, Sándor Petőfi recited his revolutionary Nemzeti dal (National Song), as a call to arms against suppression by the Habsburg monarchy. From this year on, the Upper House of the representative parliament held its sessions in the Ceremonial, until the House of Parliament was finished. Due to these historical proceedings, the Museum has become the symbol of the national freedom, and the major part of national commemorations, celebrating the revolution of 1848, are traditionally held in front of the Museum.
The collection of the Museum grew rapidly in the second half of the 19th century, under the supervision of outstanding scholars, such as Ágoston Kubinyi, Flóris Rómer, József Hampel and Ferenc Pulszky. Specialized museums branched off, and parts of the collection were used to form the Museum of Applied arts in 1872, and the Museum of Fine Arts in 1896. In 1926-27, the building was fully reconstructed, in line with the plans of Jenő Lechner, and new storage rooms were opened in the attic, solving urgent needs in this regard.
In 1949, two more subdivisions became independent institutions, establishing the Ethnographic and the Natural History Museum, and the National Széchenyi Library. At the same time, the King Mathias Museum in Visegrád, the Rákóczi Museum in Sárospatak, and the Kosuth Museum in Monok became affiliates, coming under the National Museum's supervision. In 1985, the Castle Museum in Esztergom also joined.
In the Museum Garden, several monuments were erected, in memory of eminent figures in literature and history. The first statue, erected some 150 years ago, commemorated Dániel Berzsenyi, the second - a year later - Ferenc Kazinczy. Subsequently, statues of Károly Kisfaludy, Sándor Kisfaludy, Count Ferenc Széchényi, and the scholar Ottó Herman were put in place. Alessandro Monti and Giuseppe Garibaldi, two foreigners, who were military leaders of the Hungarian Revolution, also have statues in the Garden. The centerpiece, a monument János Arany, was erected in 1893. The Garden presently serves as the main venue of the Museum Festival.
Permanent exhibitions include:
History of Hungary from the foundation of the state to 1990
Modern and Contemporary History
Scholar Hungarians in the 20th century
On the East-West frontier: History of the people in the region from 400.000 BC to 804 AD
The coronation mantle
Medieval and Early Modern Lapidary