One of the oldest thematic photo archives in Hungarian public collections is the First World War Collection of the National Széchényi Library. It was established 100 years ago, in 1914, at the same time as similar collections in the German-speaking parts of Europe. Naturally, the interests of the World War Collection included a broad spectrum, with printed material – documents, books, newspapers, flyers and postcards – forming the bulk. It was in this context that photographs were collected as important historical documents. The collection did not fare very well in the interwar period, with its material incorporated in the main collection of the Library from the mid-1920s on. There was, however, no other collection in which the photographs could be incorporated, so they were placed in storage, hoping better times would be coming. It took almost a hundred years for something to happen. The first very important occurrence was an exhibition in 1994, Man in the Age of Inhumanity. Staged in cooperation with the Museum of Military History, the exhibition still allowed only a secondary role to the photo collection of the Library. More quiet decades followed, with the systematic and state-of-the-art processing of the collection continuously postponed. The staff of the Photo Collection began the cataloguing, restoration, processing and digitization of the material in late 2008, and the results were published on the Internet. We are currently aware of 6000 photographs in the collection, in diverse physical conditions. The primary processing and publication of sections whose condition was the best have taken place, with around 2000 photos now searchable in the Library’s catalogue, and available for viewing on the webpage of the Hungarian Digital Image Library. During processing, a number of poorly preserved photos were found, which were taken in Budapest: it is a selection from these that this exhibit presents. The photographs János Müllner took during the World War are not unknown; many of them were published in contemporary papers, and several series can be found in Hungarian public collections. Accordingly, what the exhibition focuses on is not the World War or the person of the photographer, but the history of a photography archive; instead of a revelation, it offers a view into the stages of its history, now difficult, now more fortunate.
opening remarks by: Káldos János, deputy head of the National Library