Going back to the source
Online film archives of Hungarian dances – a series of articles by Józsa Tamás
The Folklore database of the Folklore Documentation Library and Archives
(Hungarian Heritage House)
Luckily for Hungarian folk dancers around the world, more and more digital platforms are publicly available to provide us with trustworthy, scientifically accurate sources of archive dance films and audio recordings, enabling us to build our folk dance knowledge on solid grounds and explore the places where it is coming from in depth. We cannot emphasize enough the significance of the existence of such extensive data sources and the work of the people who created and keep refining them. Another such refined, multifaceted, and complex online archive is the Folklore database created and maintained by the Folklore Documentation Library and Archives (Folklórdokumentációs Könyvtár és Archívum – https://hagyomanyokhaza.hu/en/archives) of the Hungarian Heritage House (Hagyományok Háza – https://hagyomanyokhaza.hu/en). Similar to that of the Institute of Musicology, this database is also a selected portion of a larger collection of films, audio recordings, photos, and textual materials.
To see how the collection came to exist we have to mention György Martin, whose name comes up very frequently in the folk dancing world. It was him who began the scientific research of Hungarian traditional dances initiating an interaction between academic research and folklore movements, which is a vital connection to have in order for the dance educational activity and stage adaptations to be folkloristically accurate. As both the Dance-house (Táncház) movement and the stage performances began to thrive in the 1970’s the demand for institutionalized folklore research grew as well. Therefore, in 1981 the House of Professional Folk Dancers (Néptáncosok Szakmai Háza) was established on Martin’s initiative with the purpose of providing the movement with a service center of trustworthy sources. The collection of this institution forms the basis of the current archive of the Folklore Documentation Library and Archives. Ever since then it has been expanding as more and more materials are continuously integrated. Amongst them we find many private collections of iconic figures of the Dance-house movement, such as Zoltán Kallós, László Gurka, Ernő Eperjessy, Ferenc Sebő, Béla Halmos, István Pávai, András Vavrinecz, Márta Virágvölgyi, Zoltán Juhász, Antal Fekete, the Muzsikás and the Téka Ensemble, László Kelemen, Róbert Kerényi, Elemér Konkoly, Ferenc Sára, Zoltán Szánthó, Gergely Agócs and Péter Árendás, who currently oversees this segment of the Heritage House. The Center digitizes the incoming audiovisual materials and archives them in CD and DVD format made available for educational and research purposes if requested at the library. After the refined process of digitization and systemization, the materials are also made available online in the Folklore database (Folklóradatbázis) – folkloradatbazis.hu. Its informatical system was created and is maintained by the Hungarian Heritage House, designed according to the plans of Dr. István Pávai. It currently stores more than 5,500 hours of audio recordings and 1,034 hours of films publicly available, all of which have undergone scientific examination and have been declared fit for publication. The site is available in Hungarian, English, and Romanian. There are a number of ways to browse or search in the database, all of which are explained by side notes to help guide you. You can search according to the collector, collection site, performer, geographic location, or genre in the areas of music, dance, and texts. All the segments brought up by the search are labeled and are accompanied by all related pieces of information so that you know exactly what you are looking at or listening to. A major feature of the database is that, apart from being able to view or listen to the recordings, many segments can be downloaded along with a document containing the aforementioned related data. The archive covers materials of the neighboring ethnicities too, which is a common feature of the dance and music folklore research from the very beginning. The site runs best under Chrome and for any assistance on the content or function of the database you may refer to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The two major online archives of the Institute of Musicology and the Hungarian Heritage House compliment each other. For instance, the Folklore database contains the archive dance research materials of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble (Magyar Állami Népi Együttes) and many others that were made in the 1980’s, 90’s, and later. Therefore when going online to look for information we recommend you check both sites, look up all the additional information and start putting together the full picture of a certain dance material. Quite like a jigsaw puzzle, except for the fact that you are given much help by the professionals who facilitate this multiphase process that starts with the collectors then continues with archivers before it reaches us end-users. Happy browsing and exploring and handle what you find with responsibility and respect.