“On a hot summer night when visitors would have flocked to the Goldberger House, we could only host audiences online.”
What was planned as the usual night of festivities and programs at museums in Budapest and across the country ended in a completely unexpected manner, as the annual Night of the Museums was hosted entirely online. Among the few institutions to offer a whole night’s worth of rich cultural and artistic programming was the Blinken Open Society Archives.
The evening began with a momentous report in the form of an online exhibition. The Laborers of Culture: Data on the Situation of Public Collections presented the current state of play across Hungary’s museums, archives, and libraries. This online compilation was made available throughout the night.
Next up was a fascinating tour of the archives by social informatist and OSA Senior Research Fellow Iván Székely, who recounted stories about the Goldberger House, the “dollar shop”, and the books cast in concrete. The tour was complemented by never-before-seen photos that revealed the rich history of the building and the Goldberger family.
Following this, OSA Archivist Örs Lehel Tari spoke about the “system change” in 1989, which saw Hungary transition from the communist one-party state to a multi-party democratic form of government. Nothing brings the history of the Hungarian system change closer than an encounter with contemporaneous documents and artifacts, created by political activists, independent artists, and even state security. Highlighting the most interesting items in the colorful holdings of the Blinken OSA, the tour helped the online audience to really engage with the atmosphere of the time and take a peek into the archive’s repository.
Another highlight was the online discussion between art historian Jozsef Melyi and editor-reporter Julia Ranki. Museum? Lament? – Special Edition, the conversation was broadcast live from the Research Room at the Blinken OSA. Melyi and Ranki offer an annual evaluation of the current situation for Hungarian museums and public collections on a special program for Tilos Radio (an independent, grassroots radio based in Budapest). This year’s edition focused on, among other things, the Night of the Museums, the “Liget” museum development project, new decrees and laws, and, above all, COVID-19 and the recent “statue toppling” happening worldwide.
The discussion was followed by a live broadcast by the historian Andras Mink titled Where Did the Democratic Opposition Disappear?
Of course, there can be no Night of the Museums at the Blinken OSA without an exhibition: this year’s POST-SOVIET – The Photos of Lenke Szilágyi 1990–2002 Virtual Exhibition was “opened” by the writer and poet Endre Kukorelly. For more than a decade, photographer Lenke Szilágyi (who for many years has also worked as a photo-archivist in the Archives) regularly travelled to the (former) Soviet Union. Her photos are sensitive imprints of an era of constant change and of a territory of eternal immutability; in her portraits she depicts hope and despair and adds witty commentaries in the diary-entries that accompany the photos. The virtual exhibition is the first major presentation of this collection.
The opening was followed by a screening of the documentary Dangerous Acts: Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus, directed by Madeleine Sackler (2013) and organized by VERZIO.
The documentary begins its story in 2010, with a state crackdown on dissenters 16 years after the Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko first took power. In the aftermath of a dubious presidential election in 2012, the state secret services continue to target the Free Theatre, forcing its members to make a desperate choice: flee the country and continue to work in exile, or stay and risk imprisonment.
The online event catered to both Hungarian and English-speaking audiences.
The video recordings of the events broadcasted live during the online Night of the Museums 2020 program are available at Blinken OSA’s YouTube channel.