The audiovisual library

Conversations recorded on tape may also help us to study the history of literature; such – so far perhaps little appreciated – audio documentation has by now become an organic part of literary museology. The collection of more than 5,000 recordings in our Audio Library is being gradually enriched, not only by interviews of literary importance but also by the receiving of bequests containing audio recordings, sometimes archive films and recently video recordings.

 One of our oldest pieces is from the second half of the 1930s; also of technical interest, it is a recording made on the negative of a radiogram that preserves the voices of Mihály Babits, Frigyes Karinthy and Sophie Török. Besides the eventuality of the conversation, it also contains a hidden message for the future; it is no accident that the cheerful conversation opens with the words, ‘Hello, this is Frigyes Karinthy, the poet, from the twentieth century!’ The Collection is a diverse one not only with respect to literary history but also in terms of topography. On their trips abroad, our audio librarians recorded interviews with, among others, Menyhért Lengyel in 1969, Amerigo Tot in Rome, Baron Bertalan Hatvany, Sári Megyery and Ferenc Fejtő in Paris, and László Cs. Szabó, Győző Határ, and also with painters and sculptors in London.

During the two decades of the Audio Library, the Museum had by the middle of the eighties accumulated approximately 1,500 ‘golden voice’ recordings, which preserve the voices of the most eminent representatives of Hungarian literary history. The uncut and unique recordings, which are available on reel-to-reel tape, are in many cases the work of amateurs done on home tape recorders. Among the magnetic tapes there are pieces which are nearly 50 years old. As these old tapes are easily damaged, it became essential to process them digitally. The Audio Library makes selections from the recordings saved on CDs, which are then made available to the general public in the Aranyhangok [Golden Voices] series.

Today statements and interviews for the media have become a part of everyday life. Consequently, bequests (e.g. Endre Illés, Sándor Márai, László Cs. Szabó, Ágnes Nemes Nagy) arriving at the Museum more and more frequently contain recordings. These unedited spoken texts of literary or documentary value are carefully examined, annotated and compiled into volumes by the staff of the Audio Library.

Numerous recordings are made of the events and exhibitions in the Museum, not only for the sake of sound archiving but also so that we can add colour to our future literary exhibitions. The Audiovisual Library is working towards proving that sound documentation, and all it can offer, also deserves a place alongside manuscripts, books, periodicals and relics.

The Audio Library has been working on the improvement of its collection in cooperation with other institutional sound assemblages. The cooperation agreement with Hungarian Radio has not only helped with the exchange of various recordings but has also made it possible for us to make copies of the most valuable literary recordings to be found in community radio studios in areas outside Budapest. At the beginning of the nineties, Hungarian Radio proposed the establishment of a National Audio Library. Within the scope of the contract those working at the Museum are now looking for an answer to the question of how a collective database for the national sound assemblage can be created.

By the middle of the nineties the establishment of a Video Library had resulted in the scope and content of the Audio Library expanding enormously. The Video Library was created because more and more video recordings were being made of Museum events, and work had begun with Hungarian Television, which meant that an increasing number of copies of previously televised authorial portraits, adaptations of literary works and staged feature films could be stored in the archive of the Literary Museum. By the end of the nineties, the Video Library had expanded by approximately 500 recordings.