Side by side with the creation of modern museums; the universal exhibition was a typical phenomena of the 19th century. Its appearance followed in a short time the spread of modern museums in the early 19th century. Both the museum and the universal exhibition were conceived as useful tools for the self-representation of the state in economic and cultural fields. In terms of state representation the Hungarian political elite pursued one major political goal during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918): the creation of the image of an economically and culturally independent country. Hungarian sections at universal exhibitions served the cultural and political representation of the country; which appeared as a new political entity in the 19th century globalization only after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867. The first manifestation of its political goals were of mixed character: the cultural history of Hungary was represented through politicized historical paintings at the Hungarian fine art section of the Vienna universal exhibition in 1873; especially the preparatory drawings of the mural for the staircases of the Hungarian National Museum.
The first part of this paper analyses the political aspects of the historical narratives in the Hungarian National Museum depicting national cultural history. The second part of the paper concentrates on the sketches of the mural of the National Museum exhibited in Vienna in 1873; their original meaning; the change of the program and their interpretation.
Great Narratives of the Past Traditions and Revisions in National Museums: Conference Proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Paris 28 June – 1 July & 25–26 November 2011
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