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A brief history of the Museum

After five years’ planning, organisation and manual work, supported – both financially and morally – by the Hungarian Geographical Society and Dr József Becsei, the Hungarian Geographical Collection was founded in 1983 by Dénes Balázs, a geographer from Érd. He used his own ethnographic and natural history collection, comprising objects from the five continents and the neglected relics of great Hungarian travellers. Béla Mógor, the then chairman of the council appropriated rooms for this purpose in the former Wimpffen Manor House. The founder declined the offer to head the institution. He recommended the young Dr János Kubassek for the position, who is still the director of the Museum. “Hungarian Travellers and Explorers”, the first standing exhibition was opened in 1980, followed by “Scholarly Explorers of the Carpathian Basin” in the other wing of the Manor House in 1988. It was then that the institution was first called a museum. “3,276 Days Spent in Exploration; or a Re-reading of Dénes Balázs, Geographer and Museum Founder”, the third standing exhibition of the Museum was opened in the exhibition hall in the attic in 2014.

The Hungarian Geographical Museum collects and exhibits the relics (e.g. objects, manuscripts, letters, diaries and photos) of Hungarian geographers and travellers as well as objects related to the history of geographical education. The Museum’s collection comprises the estates of Jenő Cholnoky, Gyula Germanus, János Tulogdi, Bernard Le Calloch, Péter Marczell, Zoltán Pinczés, Mór Déchy, Sámuel Teleki, László Sáska (physician), Lajos Kutasi-Kovács, Ferenc Balázs’s carved grave marker, György Nógrádi’s collection from Easter Island as well as a collection of maps of Ákos Szabó and János Theész.

A reference library with a collection of 13,000 books is available for researchers and students writing their theses. The library’s stock is expanded to include further estates, purchased and exchanged items. The main profiles include the works of historical and contemporary geographers and travellers, as well as old geography textbooks.

Conferences on the history of science and two to three temporary exhibitions have been organised annually since 1985 and 1993 respectively. In 1994 Érd hosted the 12th Meeting of the Natural History Museologists. In addition to the monthly sessions of the Friends of the Museum, the annual programmes of the facility include clubs, contests, camps, book shows, film screenings and the unveiling of statues and memorial plaques. The Museum has joined the Night of Museums, the May Day of Museums and Érd Days events. The facility has more and more to offer in terms of museological pedagogy and maintains an active relationship with local schools and those in Érd’s environs. The publications of the Museum include the “Geographical Museum Studies” launched by Dénes Balázs, A Lexicon of Hungarian Travellers and several biographies by János Kubassek (“The Hungarian Hermit of the Himalayas” evoking the life and career of Sándor Kőrösi Csoma and “Dazed by the Sahara” about Count László Almásy). Further publications include tourist information and guided tour brochures as well as museological pedagogy-related books. 2008 saw the publication entitled “The Hungarian Geographical Museum is 25 Years Old”.