academia (an exploratory journey)

Exhibition in the Oratory of the Kiscell Museum

Text Information/
Picture Gallery/

Venue: Budapest History Museum, Kiscell Museum – Municipal Gallery, Oratory
1037 Budapest, Kiscelli u. 108.

Exhibition date: 1st June –1st August 2021

academia (an exploratory journey)

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) owns numerous collections that have been built for many years, decades or, in some cases, even for as long as 100 or 150 years, and have been the basis of academic research. Their institutionalization has never been free of complications; over the time, there have occurred radical changes in their allocation, maintenance, and organization. Due to their scope—ranging from local, regional, national, international, global or even universal—the functioning of these collections has been influenced by the shifts in national boundaries, and international relations. In the meantime, their classification, interpretation and usage have undergone changes emerging in the wake of ruptures in national and international scientific policies and modes of financing, not to mention the ones in the academic paradigms that shaped the framework for processing data.

The project academia (an exploratory journey) is conceived as a subjective documentation of the scientific collections of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in the form of images, videos, sound recordings and texts. They were created between the end of 2016 and the end of 2019 by Éva Bicskei, the curator-in-chief of the Art Collection of the HAS, when visiting 46 research institutes of the HAS in order to draw up an inventory of their artefacts. During this series of trips, she gained comprehensive insight into the various scientific collections, as well. At first, she recorded them incidentally which turned later into a systematic effort of documentation. Bicskei began to research the history of these collections and to interview the scientific staff and researchers.

These documentation trips took place at a time of an intense public debate concerning the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (its research network, its competitiveness) and academic research in Hungary in general. Finally, in September 2019, the research institutes were detached from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, despite protests, and transferred to a new, state-owned institution called Eötvös Loránd Research Network (Eötvös Loránd Kutató Hálózat, ELKH). The project is thus part of the wider public debate about scientific research that had gathered momentum recently; at the same time, it is also a personal coping with the radical changes of the recent period.

The exhibition documents these collections exploring their functioning, their institutional history, and their place in the world of academia, and highlighting the structural continuities at administrative, institutional, technological, ideological, methodological, or epistemological levels, through which collections are built and knowledge is constructed.

The installation (made of recycled exhibition materials) invites the viewer to join this exploratory/peripatetic journey at the Academy/academia by embarking at any of the images, videos or soundtracks and accompanying texts. However, the pictures, videos, sound recordings and texts explore systematically the different ways of data collecting, ranging from monitoring and screening up to recording entries in different data banks or “classic” archives. The “objective” inventory of the collections nevertheless turns into a docu-fiction, in which the faithful rendering of the collections become a metaphor of our society, politics, history and the world of academia.
Moreover, together, these testimonies turn into a holistic rediscovery of the world of science seen from the prism of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’s collections: they offer an exploration of the interrelation of the human, social and natural sciences, enabling a more complex understanding of our world.

Concept, image, video and text: Éva Bicskei, Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont, Művészettörténeti Intézet, ELKH – Art Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Curator: Dóra Hegyi,

Installation: Tamás Kaszás

Graphic Design: Virág Bogyó


Kiscell Museum (an exploratory journey)

The history of museum collections, similarly to academic institutions, has been shaped by changes in political, cultural, and scientific paradigms, and by relocations, ruptures, and new beginnings in the life of host institutions. Curatorial decisions, financial considerations, and the state of the buildings curtail opportunities for further augmenting the collections or improving the operation of the museum.

The documentary photographs exhibited at the Excursus unveil the long-lasting problem of storage facilities at two of the major collections of the Kiscell Museum, functioning as part of the Budapest History Museum, comprising two separate collections: The Department of Modern Urban History, which holds artefacts relating to the city’s history, and the Municipal Gallery, an art collection. The photographs and the accompanying texts aim to focus attention on the history of warehouses as the not-so-visible spaces of a museum. The present, crammed condition of the magazines is the result of a long process; the stored material, and even the storage systems themselves, reflect the work of several generations of museologists and document major turning points in the history of the museum. Whilst our way of thinking about museums has changed significantly over the past decades, and considerable modernization have taken place in the presentation and mediation of the collections, their condition and the storage facilities have not improved – in fact some have deteriorated dramatically.

Concept: Roland Perényi, Enikő Róka

Texts: Anikó B. Nagy, Viktória Oth, Roland Perényi, Enikő Róka

Photographs: Csaba Villányi, Zalán Péter Salát

Press release here.