László Szögi


Although the first Hungarian Universities were founded not later than the most important Central European ones, due to historic circumstances the Hungarian universities of the Middle Ages ceased to exist after a short time, so we have only had continuous university documentation about the history of Hungarian higher education since the 17th century.

The University of Arts and Sciences which was founded in Nagyszombat in 1635 and later became the University of Budapest, was the only one in Hungary until 1872, so university archives could have been created mainly in the German style. The University of Arts and Sciences of Kolozsvár founded in 1872 got outside the borders of Hungary after having operated for half a century and the Technical University in Budapest which is about as old as that, accumulated documents too slowly for archives to be founded at all. At universities outside Budapest and at smaller specialized universities and colleges, most of which were founded during the time of dualism with the exception of Selmecbánya, Sopron and Mosonmagyaróvár, dealing with archival material became urgent only in the third part of the 20th century.

Therefore it is understandable that the first plans to create archives were drawn up in 1911 by Professor Remig Békefi at the University of Arts and Sciences in Budapest, but his proposal, perhaps because of World War I among other things, had little response. Regrettably no archives were founded either at the 300th anniversary of the University in Budapest in 1935, otherwise documents of the university would not have gone to the Hungarian National Archives after 1950. The material that was taken there was destroyed when the Archives burnt down in 1956 and the cause of the Hungarian university archives suffered great damage.

The only positive consequence of the loss was the fact that in 1958 the remaining documents were collected and the first Hungarian university archives were founded at the Eötvös Loránd University of Arts and Sciences. The small institute worked alone and in primitive conditions for a long time and this situation only started to change at the beginning of the 1970s. A new collection of documents as well as classification and processing at a wider scale started almost simultaneously at Eötvös Loránd University of Arts and Sciences, at the Technical University in Budapest, in Miskolc and in Sopron. Archives sections were created at many university libraries in preparation to become official archives. The first University Archives repertory was also published in 1975. As a result, specialized archives were founded at Miskolc University in 1982, in 1983 the same title was given to the long existing Archives of ELTE, and in 1984 university archives were founded at Sopron University with ministerial consent. Further classification of archival material started in the second half of the 1970s and in the 1980s, as a result of which the collection of the Veterinary University became specialized archives, in 1986, followed by those of Keszthely Agricultural University and the Budapest University of Economics in 1987.

So, officially, before the transition there were six university archives in Hungary but the professional work that had been going on for one or two decades in several institutions made it easier to establish further archives. Therefore it is not surprising that at the beginning of 1993 four new specialized university archives received licences. In the capital they were Budapest Technical University, Semmelweis University of Medicine, the University of Horticulture and Food Industry and Gödöllő Agricultural University.

Since 8 out of the above mentioned 10 university archives belonged to the larger area of Budapest and the history of these universities had also been linked structurally so often in the past, the idea seemed reasonable to coordinate the activity of this kind of the archives and several institutions of higher education of the region and to make better use of the given recources and capacities in the difficult economic circumstances. Taking these factors into consideration the Higher Education and Public Collection Department of the Ministry of Education suggested in the summer of 1992 that the institutions of higher education of the Budapest region should form an Association of Archives. By no means did they mean centralization, the transportation of the documents from their place, which would not only have interfered with the autonomy of the institutions but would have conflicted with the scientific and researcher interests as well. The institutions of the region mostly reacted favourably to the proposal and the Archives of Eötvös Lóránd University of Arts and Sciences, the oldest permanently existing university in Hungary was appointed the centre of the future Association in the autumn of 1992.

After the meetings arranged by the Ministry of Education, in the months of April and May in1993, the councils of all the universities and colleges that belong to the Budapest suburbia discussed the plan of the ?Association of Budapest-Gödöllő University and College Archives? and they passed a resolution.

21 out of the 24 universities and colleges decided to join the Association. Three institutions pointed out that they agreed with the aims of the Association but they did not wish to join for the time being.

At the specialized archives that joined there were altogether 12-13 people working, half of which had specialized university degree in history or as archivists. The professional activity of the Association was meant to be based on this smaller group of experts who, working together in the member institutions, can carry out important archival tasks. According to the regulations they worked out, the Association is ? an organization which works as a specialized archives network of the archives and central files of the universities and colleges of the region that voluntarily join the Association?, ?it is not an independent legal entity, it works on behalf of the member institutions, entrusted with their competence.? The Association has solved different tasks in member institutions where there are archives or where such archives have not been established. Individual contracts were made about the form of cooperation between the given universities and colleges and the Association where the tasks and duties were mutually secured.

The Association signed agreements with the member university libraries, in which it principally undertook the classification of material , while the institutions would do the task of publishing the manuals, references. As a result of the work done, new specialized university archives have been established almost each year since the middle of the 1990s, in 1995 at the Hungarian College (University)of Arts, in 1997 at the Hungarian University of Physical Education, in 1998 at the Hungarian College (University) of Applied Arts and in 1999 at Veszprém University.

The Archives Council of the Association modified its statues at its meeting in November 1996 and it intended to extend its activity over the whole country. This intention is reflected in the change of the official name. The Association of the Hungarian University and College Archives was founded in 1996, in the work of which the archives and university history collections of the universities and colleges in the country have joined in since then.

One of the most important results of the work of the Association was the publication of a common Hungarian university archives fons and division register. The Working Group of the History of Hungarian Higher Education made plans as early as the second half of 1970s to publish a general archival list of sources of the history of Hungarian higher education. József Antall, General Director of the Medical History Library , Museum and Archives, made a proposal on 8th June 1976 to create the institutional framework of the cause of the university archives.

It was brought up then that the data of the resource materials kept in the different national, county, and also in the church archives should be collected and completed with the information on the archives material at Hungarian universities and colleges. In this project the Working Group of the History of Hungarian Higher Education issued a circular and intended to publish the list of the documents in the archives of Hungarian higher education on the basis of the answers received from the Hungarian archives and the institutions. At the beginning of the 1980s the Hungarian National Committee of the International Committeee of the History of Universities was formed and by updating the questionnaire the issue was put on the agenda again. László Szögi and Endre Szemkeő were entrusted with the edition of the publication by József Antall.

The responses received at the second half of the 1980s unfortunately showed, that although a significant amount of archival material had

been accumulated at the Hungarian institutions of higher education despite the destruction, 95% of them were unprocessed, scattered in the different structural units and practically unsuitable for research, so on the basis of the given information it was impossible to publish a research manual. Only 2 or 3 of the universities and colleges in Budapest had arranged documents while there were hardly any usable data in the rest. Outside Budapest the county archives had received the documents of the university, such as in Pécs, Debrecen and Szeged, but the series were not complete and certain parts of the material had remained at the university in a state unsuitable for research. All these circumstances made it impossible then to publish a manual of a homogeneous structure.

It was necessary to make reasonable changes between the different university archives in order to make the fields of interests definable. The ELTE Archives handed over materials to several other university archives. A smaller amount of material went back to university archives from the Hungarian National Archives and the Party Archives of the Hungarian Socialist Workers? Party (MSZMP).

A major editorial principle of the publication was only to issue data of an institute of higher education where the arrangments have already been done under our control to make the documents in the archives suitable for research. It was also our intention, however, to introduce all the collections of universities and colleges that have reached the status of specialized archives. This work got to the point in 1997 where we could publish real data of fonds and condition in the archives. Accordingly, we introduced the archives of 13 Hungarian institutes of higher education in the first part of the book. One of them, Kandó Kálmán Techinal College has not reached the status of specialized archives but  we have sorted out its material as sysematically as it has been done in other archives. Four out of the twelve specialized archives can be found in the country: Gödöllő, Keszthely, Miskolc, Sopron. The classification at the Miskolc University Archives is only differrent form the other universities as major fonds groups have also been made while this unit is not used by other universities. It does not influence the level of order and reseach though.

At present we can say that the15 university archives in Hungary with altogether more than 4000 linear meter documents of historic value have become an organic part of the network of Hungarian archives. Following the integration of higher education in 2000 these archives belong to 12 universities so it is an important task at many places to adjust to the new structural framework. In the recent years the now national Association has made a lot of  efforts to integrate the universities in the country in the work of the university archives but the results can not be seen yet.The new, integrated and big city universities, like Debrecen, Szeged and Pécs have already planned to create specialized university archives but the material and personal conditions are not yet given.

In 2001 the general Assembly of the Association of Hungarian University and College Archives joined an association and officially founded the Association of the Archives of Hungarian higher Education as an independent professional archival organization. The Association is represented in the common professional bodies and committees and helps the improvement of the archival work in its own ways.