Codes of Freedom

Signs and Symbols in the Spirit of Liberty 25/Jun/2016 - 27/Nov/2016
The primary aim of this exhibition is to spotlight, through symbolism, the relationship between the Hungarian Revolutions of 1848 and 1956, and in doing so, to reveal a continuity in the use of symbols that transcended changes in the political power structure.


In both 1848, and 1956, the primary focus of revolutionary activity was the issue of civil liberties, the aim in the former case being to secure them and in the latter to regain them.  Thus, it is not unsurprising that the 1956 uprising should have been founded in the spirit – and in some cases even on the concrete agenda – of the movement of 1848, while at the same time adopting virtually all of its symbols.  In this exhibition, the relationships between symbols and social/political groups are assessed within the historical context in which they were used. 

Symbols of significance to a community represent a means for reinforcing communication and social cohesion; their ability to create history cannot, therefore, be understood without reference to the distinct and emotionally charged meanings they carry.  The most visible and frequently used symbols of any state are its coat-of-arms and flag, whose patterns invoke and affirm selected sets of national ties and affections by means of both analogy, and iconography.  Symbols of this nature are capable of expressing identity, inspiring admiration, and mobilising energy.

In Hungary, symbols that expressed a longing for liberty – whether on the part of urbanite, peasant, tradesman, or herdsman – were kept alive through material culture, including objects and rituals of the everyday variety, as well as those reserved for special occasions. 

The secular rites of the Kossuth cult with its focus on national liberty, the national colours, ribbons and flags, and – above all – various manifestations of the national coat-of-arms were all clearly understood to carry a message of liberty within the special set of relationships that marked Hungarian culture.