Then late in December of 2021, Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources - in agreement with the newly appointed director of the Hungarian National Museum, László L. Simon - announced in an email that the appointment of the curators (Etele Kiss, Ágnes Ritoók, and Erika Simonyi of the Hungarian National Museum) is being withdrawn, and Miklós Makoldi of the Institute of Hungarian Research is appointed as the new curator of the exhibition. Making such a move three months before the opening of a major exhibition is quite surprising even in Hungary and naturally, a scandal broke out. Given the fact that Miklós Makoldi, an archeologist without a doctorate and any relevant museum-related expertise was about to take over the results of three years of work by a team of experienced museum curators, many scholars decided that they no longer wish to participate in such a project. In the end, 25 scholars signed an open letter, withdrawing their contributions from the catalog of the exhibition (which was already nearing completion). In this situation, many people doubted that the exhibition could be opened at all. In the end, the exhibition - titled Kings and Saints, The Era of the Árpád Dynasty - opened on March 18, 2022, in a former monastery turned into a museum at Székesfehérvár. Due to the circumstances, however, the result amounts to a monumental missed opportunity.
|The Monomachos Crown (Hungarian National Museum)
Let me explain in detail. Makoldi, the new curator of the exhibition, had no chance or time to change the concept of the exhibition. He only modified three rooms of the exhibition, mainly to remove references to the non-Hungarian population of medieval Hungary (including Carolingians and Slavs from the first section dealing with the Hungarian conquest and a chapter about Muslims, Jews, and various Eastern nomadic people living in the Kingdom of Hungary). You can read the explanation of the Institute and see for yourself. In any case, the new curator worked with the original synopsis and object list - taking over other people's work, if you will. However, the original concept could not be realized. Several important loans did not make it to Székesfehérvár (the Cross of Adelheid from Lavantall is one such object mentioned in the press, but there are many others). It is hard to tell what role the scandal played in the case of missing loans - I think the venue in Székesfehérvár may also have played a role in this. Not the address itself, but the fact that the museum building in Székesfehérvár was completed just a few weeks before the opening of the exhibition, so lenders could not verify that it is up to international standards needed for sensitive objects.
|Lehel's horn from Jászberény
|Enklopion from Maastricht
|A display of stone carvings
|Finds from Pétermonostora
|13th-century crown from Margaret Island, HNM
Despite these significant shortcomings, do visit the exhibition if you get a chance. Objects that are otherwise hard to see and some highlights are definitely worth a visit. The original concept of the exhibition can still be followed (as long as you read Hungarian...) and Székesfehérvár is only about 45 minutes from Budapest by train. The exhibition will be on view until June 15, 2022.
|Fragments from the tomb of Queen Gertrude, from Pilis Abbey
|14th-century reliquary of St. Stephen from Aachen
(photos my own, taken with permission)