Metamorphoses

From Palace of Justice to Museum 30/Sep/2010 - 20/Feb/2011
In 1974, more than 100 years after the it was founded, the Museum of Ethnography began a move that took several years, into the building of the Hungarian National Gallery - originally the Palace of Justice, the palace of the Hungarian supreme court. The elegant court building had been remodelled for museum use in the 1950s, starting with a complete redesign of its interior spaces. While the museum has always regarded the preservation of the building's surviving furnishings and its most striking architectural features as a matter of paramount importance, throughout the remodelling process, there were the changing needs of museum visitors to consider, as well.

 

Museums today - even those located in 19th-century buildings constructed specifically for museum purposes - require modern, visitor-friendly environments, and this, in turn, requires changes that might go as far as altering the overall character of the building (see, for example, the development plans of the Hungarian National Museum and Museum of Fine Arts).

Accordingly, in 2009 and 2010, the Museum of Ethnography undertook a complete remodelling of its building, based on a rethinking of the system by which its interior spaces were used. As a result, while several of its more elegant rooms (such as the entrance hall) were restored to their original function and condition, at the same time, spaces such as the receiving area have been designed to meet the needs of the 21st-century museum visitor. In addition, the complex remodelling project included multimedia programs in the entrance hall and atrium to enhance the viability of these rooms in their role as museum interiors.

The remodelling project (from the initial planning phase to the placement of the last piece of furniture) has cast a spotlight on the history of the building's construction and use. One particular cause for excitement, for example, was the rediscovery of the original functions of its various century-old halls, a subject that while relatively well-documented, had remained virtually unknown to scholars until now. The exhibition, consisting of a rich collection of documentary photographic material, divides the building's history into three major periods according to its use as a court building, national gallery, and ethnography museum, respectively. Exhibition photographs are displayed in the rooms they depict, often set at the same angle, forging space and 115 years of transformation into a compelling continuum.

Curators: Péter Granasztói, Krisztina Sedlmayr, Zsuzsanna Vámos-Lovay