The Visual and the National: the Making of the Transylvanian Ethnographic Museum (1902)
Szabó Levente

This definition of primitivity that highlights its nature to generate economic growth is intermingled with an image of the future museum that defines it as having vindictive functions not only towards non-Hungarians, but also towards the Hungarians from Hungary:

"In a well-organized Transylvanian ethnographic museum a foreigner can make a picture of Transylvania for himself in a quick manner; he will be able to draw a turistic plan for himself of what is worth seeing here. But it is also this museum where our fellow-countrymen could become acquinted with this Garden of Eden [i. e. Transylvania], with the essence of the Hungarian national. This could make our town the capital city of ethnography."

 When the local councilors visit the newly established and opened ethnographic museum the president of the tourist society sketches not only the hardships of the gathering process of the objects but also speaks highly about an alleged individuality of the museum: "Concerning its character this museum is unique since it entails only the objects of a single region. The similar foreign museums are colonial and the one in Budapest is international and cosmopolitan in its character?.  So the founding of the Kolozsvár / Cluj-based ethnographic museum inscribed itself into a regional struggle on the authenticity and representativeness of Transylvania in nation-building:

"In Transylvania there has been for a long time what on we could term ethnographic common knowledge [?köztudat?]. And it is only Transylvania that has monographic ethnographic literature. [After the ethnographic initiatives of the Saxons and the Romanians] there are only the Hungarians left ─ it is their supremacy from which the responsibility springs to gain a leading role in ethnographic research of all the ethnic groups populating this area ['hazarész']. "

This is the premise he founds his claim for "a Transylvanian general Carpathian Museum in Kolozsvár, with a special regard to the touristic and ethnographic relationships" . The building he regarded the most fit for the functions of an ethnographic museum wasn?t a neutral place: "[The best place for it] would be the birthplace of King Mátyás that has been consecrated by the national feeling? . The opening of the museum wasn?t opaque either in the former sense: it coincided with the similarly ceremonial erection of the statue of King Mátyás. In fact, they are viewed both by the organizers, both by the participants as two constituent parts of the same event. That is why the grand opening of the museum is perceived also as a kind of symbolic appropriation of the Transylvanian space.

  This is the reason why the main visual narrative in presenting Transylvanian Hungarians has a regional focus (trying to overemphasize the role of Transylvania in nation-building), and on the other hand it gives a significant space to those objects (for instance, the varrottasfrom Kalotaszeg etc.) which has had also an economic success at the national and international exhibitions, respectively at the millennial exhibition (1896) of Hungary.

Another main ideological impetus defining the visual narrative of the museum to be founded is based on the dichotomic idea of "our ethnic and successful primitivity" vs. "their ethnic primitivity (that is neither successful, not civilized, henceforth it should be civilized)?. The Romaniansappear in it as the subjects of a civilizing process: "we should civilize them so as they could understand and appropriate this loyalty." It is interwined with economic arguments: e.g. this type of loyalty assures peace and thus also economic well-being. Toleranceis a recurrent concept of the framework in the sense of accepting the otherness in change of the double / triple loyalty ("we are inviting you and taking you as you are in exchange for your loyalty to the region, state and / or empire").  Another line that is visible is actually reworking the former model into an exclusivist ethnocultural framework. This implies the loyalty to the state (sometimes to the region, too) and it is measured by language differences. It is again intertwined with economic arguments: in such types of narratives this type of loyalty assures a homogeneous and sure economic well-being (with)in the state. Tolerance is again a recurrent concept here, but having another logic than in the former case: "we are tolerant, because we are inviting you to join the community, we don?t exclude you ─ if you don?t master the language you are excluding yourselves / this equals the fact that you don?t wish to become a loyal member of the community."

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