Natural History Exhibition in a Museum of Literature

From Room to Room, among Zemplén Hills

MúzeumCafé 51.

The KazinczyFerenc Museum in Sátoraljaújhely took over the Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County’s biological collection, which now comprises 180,000 items. In 2013 the museum became affiliated to the Petőfi Museum of Literature, understandably given Kazinczy’s name and the closeness of Széphalom – both the Kazinczy Mausoleum and the Museum of Hungarian Language can be found there. Literary historians and others were concerned about when and how a new natural history exhibition could be developed to replace the outdated previous one, which was closed. First, it had to be decided who it would be aimed at. On the one hand, the town’s population of 16,000 was given, the school-age group included – at present nearby Széphalom and the Zemplén Hills are more frequent targets for school outings than the museum itself. The Zemplén Hills are also favoured by individuals and families. Ramblers and nature lovers can generally also be interested in a natural history exhibition. The staff of the literary museum in Budapest and those working in the town museum, including the natural history museum specialist, had their own priorities. Those had to be co-ordinated so that a genuine, authentic exhibition could be staged, which was relevant, understandable and likable for visitors. GáborHegyessy’s original, thorough and scientific concept encompasses the fields of the natural sciences which the museum’s collection covers – geology, botany and zoology – and touches on human influence on the formation of the Zemplén landscape and biology. One possible way of making such an exhibition attractive and enjoyable is if nature is not presented as an object of sterile scientific analysis, but as a part of people’s everyday life. There are people who like ‘interpassive’ exhibitions – this expression is sometimes heard teasingly in the museum profession. Children and child-like adults tend to like exhibits and situations where they can (hands-on) manipulate something and acquire (minds-on) new knowledge. Arguably, the latter primarily causes a stir in traditional museum approaches. The expression interactivity is commonly used and almost mentioned as an expectation with respect to museums. This exhibition has certainly had receptive visitors, thanks to the work of MáriaGécziné Nagy. The display offers opportunities for cognitive, affective and motor learning. Each room has elements intended for children, and adults with children. Each room includes simple objects and captivating accessories: films, sound recordings, photographs, maps and purpose-made furnishings. Hopefully, there will also be visitors in every room, enjoying nature presented in an original way.