The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives at the Central European University first participated in the Night of Museums event in Budapest in 2007. Since then, it has taken part in one of the largest cultural events in the country every year. Contrary to previous years, the program took place at the CEU campus complex due to construction works in the Blinken OSA building.
Therefore, the focus of this year's program was on the exiled university and its captivating and troubled fate in Budapest. Visitors could participate in guided campus tours on an hourly basis and it was Jozsef Laszlovszky, Professor of History and Medieval Studies at CEU, who helped our staff prepare for these, based on his experience of previous events when the CEU campus was open to the public. A multitude of guests took part in the guided tours who had the chance to stroll in the empty hallways of a place that used to be bursting with student life.
Blinken OSA director, Istvan Rev led some of the tours during which he informed visitors of the history of the buildings and reflected on the complex past of the place. He also discussed how the very idea of establishing a unique university, first envisioned in Dubrovnik and later realized in Prague, Warsaw, Budapest and now Vienna came about.
Blinken OSA Head of Administration, Katalin Gadoros recalled that "it was a devastatingly bittersweet moment when two of the chance visitors, two young women who were on a trip to check out European universities, looked around on the Rooftop Terrace of the Nador 16 building and cried out in delight: 'Beautiful!!! And this is all for the students?' "
Blinken OSA Research Fellow, Gabor Toka was also an eager tour guide during the event. He too shared stories of the historic buildings and answered questions about the current state of the property and its ongoing programs, while reminiscing about the history of this particular area of Budapest.
Besides the tours, visitors also had the chance to watch a longer version of the film Free University that was screened in the CEU Auditorium with English and Hungarian subtitles. Additionally, Blinken OSA Program Officer, Katalin Szekely compiled a Chamber exhibition about the history of the building complex and the University which was displayed on monitors in the foyer area of the building.
Half of the OSA staff volunteered to participate in the program and those who could not attend participated during the preparation phase. Overall, it was a delightful community event for the public as well as our institution and a terrific community building experience for CEU colleagues.