Folk Music Collection (audio materials and transcription of melodies)
In a little over a century, the Audio Archives of the Folk Music Collection have accumulated analogue machine recordings on over ten thousand melodies. The archive additionally offers a large number of items of textual folklore (folk tales, legends, superstitions, folk prayers, etc.), folk memoirs, oral history recordings, and interviews with noted ethnographers on events in their careers.
Phonograph Cylinder Collection
The first European to use the phonograph as a tool in ethnographic fieldwork was Béla Vikár, whose folk music recordings won him international fame at the Paris World's Fair of 1900. Soon after, at the beginning of the 20th century, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and their students managed to record 4,500 phonograph cylinders' worth of folk music at a time when traditional forms of folk culture still flourished. Fieldwork covered not only ethnic Hungarian groups, but also other residents of the Carpathian Basin, including Romanians, Slovaks, South Slavs, Ruthenians, Germans, Jews the Roma people, and, in Bartók's case, even the Anatolian Turks and Algerian Arabs, and, finally, the Hungarian-related peoples of the Volga region (the result of the research of Finnish scholar Irjö Wichmann). The phonograph continued to be used for the collection of folk music through the 1950's.
Collection of Gramophone Records
The Museum of Ethnography first experimented with the application of the gramophone for museological purposes in 1914. Two decades later, in 1936, four records of Transdanubian audio material were recorded with the support of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The project was followed by an effort in conjunction with Hungarian Radio targeting the recording of all existing Hungarian musical and textual folklore material on the new medium under the direction of several of the great names in Hungarian music; Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and László Lajtha. By this time the instrument's recording stylus, capable of registering a frequency range of 600-1200 Hz, had been exchanged for electroacoustic microphones that could record frequencies ranging from 100 to 5000 Hz. Thus, the new technology offered improved sound quality even for the recording of orchestral music. Within a period of 9 years, 125 records were produced, of which 107 were released for commercial distribution. The resulting collection of records became known in professional circles as the Pátria series.
In 2001, under the auspices of Fonó Records, the complete material of this series (including released and unreleased recordings) was released as a 3-disc CD-ROM set edited by Ferenc Sebő.
Collection of Magnetic Tape Recordings
In the 1950's magnetic tape came into use alongside the disc recording as a replacement for the phonograph cylinder. By 1952, the Museum of Ethnography was producing its disc recordings for the archives on magnetic tape, rather than cutting records in situ. In 1960 the Folk Music Department acquired 55 new tapes for the collection, and the re-recording of old phonograph cylinders onto magnetic tape was also begun. The goal in this latter activity was to spare existing cylinders from the wear caused by repeated use and to facilitate the handling of the recordings. After the museum acquired the Lajtha Group's collection in 1963, the pace of expansion began to slow, as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Folk Music Research Group, formed during this time, had begun work on a central collection of Hungarian folk music, achieved partly by copying material provided by the museum and other public educational and cultural institutions and partly through the additional material provided by voluntary fieldworkers.
The museum Archives also include a collection of audio cassettes, whose presence is due in part to the lack of professional audio recording equipment, as well as to the practice of requesting the submission of recorded material with entries for various public amateur collectors' competitions. A small number of the folk music cassettes included were on general release at the time of buying.
Collection of Musical Video Recordings
In 1998, with the support of the National Priority Social Science Research Foundation, the museum succeeded in acquiring a 188-hour section of the video collection of István Pávai, including both material on Transylvanian and Moldva Valley village instrumental groups and interviews on how such groups traditionally operated, all on HiFi stereo video cassette. This significant acquisition will enable researchers to study not only the musical techniques involved, but also the visual communication between performers, musical performance techniques, and the relation between musician and dancer.
Digital Compact Disc Collection
The Museum of Ethnography's digital collection includes not only audio recordings, but also digital multimedia copies of material originally recorded or preserved on other media. Digitised portions of the museum's collections are currently stored on compact disc.
The Folk Music Collection actually offers only a very few original folk music recordings on CD. One of these is the Museum of Ethography recording of a CD to accompany the volume entitled Aranyosszék népzenéje (The Folk Music of Aranyosszék) by Piroska Demény, edited by István Pávai. Originally the museum's CD collection was founded with the intention of creating a digital archive of material previously preserved on earlier types of media. To date, the complete material of the Pátria series, including recordings of all media types together with the conserved musical scores, has been digitised. All museum phonograph recordings have been transferred to CD. Other current projects include the scanning of transcripts of the museum's phonograph recordings and the digitisation of the collection of music documents.
Collection of Folk Music Transcriptions
To call a conserved piece of sheet music a támlap, a word describing the product of gluing the hand-written transcription of a single melody from a phonograph cylinder onto a piece of cardboard, was originally Béla Vikár's idea. The preservation of such material in the order it was inventoried is useful in reconstructing the research process itself. Only the collection of material kept at the Museum of Ethnography allows classic phonograph and gramophone recordings to be tracked in this way, since the copies on inventory at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Musical Science Institute are grouped by musical category instead. The earliest items in the collection are over 100 years old, and the multi-coloured notes they preserve offer a compelling glimpse into the history of research.
The curator of the collection is Dr. Krisztina Pálóczy.