Parting with the illusion of having a monopoly on knowledge

In conversation with László Köcze, the head of the archives of the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport

László Köcze is the head of the Digitisation and Documentation Department of the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport (MMKM). He graduated in history and Central European studies from Szeged University. He was an assistant archivist and then an archivist in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security. He was a staff member of the Budapest City Archives from 2008, and its department head from 2013. He joined the MMKM in summer 2016. His area of interest extends to the relationship between corporate past and memory, as well as to questions of archival science.

One of the aims of developing the MMKM archives is to explore the archival collections relevant to the history of transport and technology, and to integrate them into a single virtual database. The most practical solution would be to unite the independent and separately handled documentations of the former Transport Museum and the Museum of Technology. The archives of the merged institution has almost 3,000 running metres of material that was accumulated during the last 50 years, mainly comprising the document of the Transport Museum and including manuscripts of  transportation engineers Kálmán Kandó and Boldizsár Vásárhelyi as well as aviatic experts Oszkár Asbóth and Lajos Martin Lajos; documents from the planning office of civil engineer Szilárd Zielniski; the documentary collection of naval captain and wroter János Venczel; and the personal documents of engineer Ottó Hieronymi (he designed the first horse-drawn railway between Pozsony and Nagyszombat) but the photographic albums made of 19th-century railway lines and bridge building projects also form an important part of the collection. Although they are a special document type, the hundreds of boxes of ship’s logbooks, locomotive books and registration forms are invaluable for researchers of the artefacts of the history of transport. An outstanding acquisition of recent years is notable bridge-builder and expert Ernő Tóth’s documentary collection of the history of bridges, which entered the museum by courtesy of the Association for Bridge Builders. There is also the documentary collection of the history of the plant at the Free Port of Csepel, the post-war technical drawings repository of the Óbuda Shipyard and documents of the factory’s history, as well as the documentation of the Gfrerer, Schoch and Grossmann Building Company, which played an important role in railway constructions, and the hundreds of thousands of technical drawings of MÁV and MÁVAG. And preserved in the collection of the history of technology are the legacies of technical experts such as mechanical engineer Géza Szikla, surveyors Lajos Bodola and István Kruspér, and the first certified electrical engineer in Europe, László Verebélÿ, who was a colleague of Kálmán Kandó and worked on designing the Hungarian rail network after WWII.

Written documentation is less in focus in a museum than collections of artefacts and often used as supplements since the main ’product’ of a museum is an exhibition after all. Before now, the MMKM archives had no system of what they should collect and how they should do it, whereas the now 100-year-old Transport Museum had been collecting documents since its foundation.