Collection of textiles

    Collection of Textiles and Costumes

    The Museum of Ethnography's collection of textiles and costumes is one of the largest and most valuable of its kind in Europe. In terms of volume, it amounts to almost 25% of the museum's total holdings. In fact, the role of textiles in Hungarian folk culture is much more prominent than in the countries west of Hungary, and the methods, patterns, and colours used to decorate them vary enormously throughout the Carpathian Basin.

    In some areas, the proclivity for using traditional household textiles and for producing or even wearing folk costumes has persisted and continues to develop today. The collection offered by the museum includes ethnic Hungarian folk costumes, articles of national dress, and household textiles from the territory of historical Hungary, but does not deal with the tools used in their manufacture.

    Initial work on the collection may be attributed to the intellectual interest in peasant life and folklore prevalent in this region in the second half of the 19th century. Thus, the museum acquired its first collection of textiles and costumes for the Vienna World Fair of 1873, the Budapest National Exhibition in 1885, and the Millennial Exhibit in 1896. Later additions were made based on the museum's increasingly complex system of criteria for inclusion. During those initial years, the composition of the collection was strongly influence by the activities of János Xántus, János Jankó, Zsigmond Bátky, István Györffy, Edit Fél, and Katalin N. Fülöp.

    Most of the collection's more than 47,000 artefacts are articles of clothing originally belonging to full folk costumes (about 59% of the collection). The collection has been arranged primarily into series of related items, though a smaller proportion consists of full costumes and sets of household textiles representing the culture of a concrete Hungarian municipality.

    Because most efforts aimed at expanding the collection have occurred in more recent times, the majority of pieces date to the 19th and 20th centuries, with only a smaller proportion representing the two previous centuries. From the start, work on the collection tended to focus on its folk art aspects, so that much of the material consists of scraps of clothing or textiles small in size, but which preserve those parts of the article decorated with embroidery or woven with colourful patterns.

    Because of the large number of private collectors and merchants participating in the development of its material, the Collection of Textiles and Costumes actually represents a geographically and historically quirky assemblage of a minute fraction of the great variety inherent in the field. Nevertheless, it can be said that in general it includes the most important types of textiles and costumes produced and used in the Carpathian Basin in the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection's popularity certainly affirms this presumption: for over a century, its offerings have served as the subject of scientific inquiry, of exhibitions both at home and abroad, of numerous publications, and of documentary and educational resources, while Hungarian folk art publications that build upon the museum's material typically dedicate a full one quarter of their content to discussions and photographs of the Collection of Textiles and Costumes.

    The curators of the collection are: : Edit Katona, Mónika Lackner, Hajnalka Fülöp