An Exhibition and its Background

Treasures Beneath the City – Something New from the Past, a temporary exhibition at the Budapest History Museum’s Castle Museum

Ten years, more than 2000 archaeologically monitored construction projects, about 150 excavation sites and exactly 1259 exhibited objects – in numbers this is the essence of the temporary exhibition about the archaeological activity of the Budapest History Museum. However, the exhibition involves more than logically arranged, beautiful objects. The ancient settlements in the present territory of Budapest are outlined and you can discover historical events and the evidence of past wars and golden ages. At the same time, illustrations and reconstructions enable visitors to gain an insight into each part of the lived past now buried. In the background of the exhibition there is the coordinated work of several organisations and institutes, construction projects and specialists. Much effort is required to produce a display of the finds documented in the course of field work and preserved in the museum, and to delineate a historical picture comprehensible to all.

The Budapest History Museum is statutorily responsible for conducting archaeological excavations in Budapest and undertaking such activity in connection with construction projects. The tasks in relation to constructors and excavations are both defined by legal provisions. They mainly concern the first phase of archaeological exploration, the field work. Those planning construction activities provide the possibility – with special consideration to the urban territory – for excavation. During construction, the archaeologist can gain an insight, if only briefly, into the historical layers of areas otherwise hidden by buildings and infrastructure. Without investments and investors, 90% of archaeological work in the capital during the past ten years would not have taken place. The costs of excavation are borne by the builder, who would, in the interest of construction, disturb or eliminate the various layers. Thus from the point of view of investors, most archaeological excavations can be considered a ‘by-product’ of construction and development accompanying earth works. The interests of constructors and archaeologists are not the same, so successful archaeological research requires cooperation, for which mutual respect is necessary.

A target public for the exhibition has not been determined, which we regard as a special value. The past belongs to all. Thus it had to be displayed in such a way that everyone understands and everyone finds a part of the exhibition which speaks to him or her. This aim is served by tableaux for children, texts in English for foreigners, reconstructions and the interactive equipment for those looking for an experience, as well as detailed information for those seeking knowledge. We have not wanted to exclude anyone. At the same time, the exhibition provides feedback for investors and city residents alike – there is something new and something valuable below ground.