The focal points of the year 2016 were the 60th anniversary of the 1956 revolution and, obviously, the continuing refugee crisis. The year, however, started in Mexico, far away from these concerns. In cooperation with the International Center of Photography in New York, OSA brought the Mexican Suitcase to Budapest. The legendary Mexican Suitcase containing Robert Capa’s Spanish Civil War negatives, considered lost since 1939, was exhibited in the Galeria Centralis. The Suitcase is in fact three small boxes containing nearly 4,500 negatives, not only by Capa but also by his fellow photojournalists Chim (David Seymour) and Gerda Taro. These negatives span the course of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), through Chim’s in-depth coverage from 1936 and early 1937, Taro’s intrepid documentation until her death in battle in July 1937, and Capa’s incisive reportage until the last months of the conflict. Following the end of the war and amid the chaos of the Germans entry into Paris in 1940, the negatives were passed from hand to hand for safekeeping, and ultimately ended up in Mexico City, where they resurfaced in 2007. As part of the exhibition events, in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy in Budapest and the Cervantes Institute, the Archives presented a film series, “Eye on Spain” with rarely seen films, including home movies on the Spanish Civil War.
In February, 2016 the Archives opened an exhibition produced and curated by artist and photographer, Axel Braun. The artistic research project revisits the unresolved controversy in the second half of the 1980s about the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Dam System that was planned and partly built along the Danube in Hungary and Slovakia. The exhibition traces the activities of the Duna Kör (Danube Circle) – one of the first environmental initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe – and its substantial role as a civic movement during the years of regime change in Hungary. Axel Braun worked and did research in the substantial environmental collection of the Archives that now includes the personal archive of János Vargha, the founder of the Danube Circle. In that sense, the exhibition could be considered “site specific”, as it was intended to contextualize and make visible one of the important collections of the Archives. The exhibition – as usual at Blinken OSA – was complemented and surrounded by other programs, film screenings, lectures, and also a musical competition for young composers, who were invited to compose music on the theme of the River Danube. The prize winning compositions by students of the Hungarian Academy of Music were presented at the finissage.
In 2016, on the thirtieth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, Blinken OSA organized another environmental program series. The “Chernobyl Marathon”, a two-day series of programs lasting from morning till late night, commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl. Evening programs included film and book launches and literary readings to help discuss the events of thirty years ago while also touching upon issues concerning the safety of nuclear power, individual and social responsibilities or sustainable and responsible energy management, taking into account aspects of the present as well as of the unforeseeable future.
During the day, selected OSA documents were made available for visitors from the extensive Chernobyl collection of the Archives, including the video interview collection of the Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich. Her famous book, “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” was based on these interviews, which she donated to Blinken OSA. Secondary school students took part in creative workshops examining issues such as how the main discourse surrounding energy safety and sustainability has changed in the past thirty years, and what can be done – both individually and at societal level – to ensure responsible energy management. The recent contract signed by the Hungarian government with Russia and its nuclear energy company, Rosatom, to construct a second nuclear energy power plant from a Russian loan in Hungary, made the program especially timely and relevant.
The Hungarian government, having spent almost $500 million of taxpayers’ money on a pathetic world championship (FINA 2017), announced that Hungary would apply for the right to organize the 2024 Summer Olympics. In order to put the application in context, and also to initiate public debate about the government’s plan, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Berlin Summer Olympics and the Olimpíada Popular, in Barcelona, the Archives organized an exhibition Olympics and Politics – Berlin / Barcelona 1936, which examined how these international sporting events became the terrains for ideological and physical battles in the heavily politicized 1930s, and how the two games acquired different political significance. Using archival sources (newsreel footage, films, photos, etc.), the exhibition presented the two-week spectacle of the Berlin Games through the lenses of its counterpart, the Workers’ Olympics, and the war which the Nazi ideology so pompously and magnificently promoted through its Olympics. Blinken OSA's program was a real success, and not only among the visitors. Following the exhibition, a new movement, under the name Momentum, initiated a national referendum campaign, and in view of the success of civil mobilization, the government gave up its megalomaniac ambition.
In an effort to interpret the refugee crisis in a historical and
cultural context, the Archives presented Béla Bartók’s thoughts on cultural
diversity under the title “Emigrant Tunes”. The program included extracts from
Bartók’s letters, lectures and publications. The selected pieces were
presented together with his musical compositions inspired by folk music and the
phonograph recordings he made during his journey to the Middle East.
Of all the information and memory professions, the archival field is the one that is most integrally responsible for the long-term preservation and accessibilty of records and other forms of documentation, which are especially instrumental in the lives of people who have found themselves forced to leave their homes and homelands because of oppression, expulsion, war, natural disasters or economic exigency. Thus OSA hosted a lecture by Anne J. Gililand from UCLA with the title, “There is always a Before and an After: Documentation, the Archive and the Global Refugee Crisis".
On the sixtieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the
Archives launched a series of public projects including two calls for applications for
students and teachers, who were invited to develop innovative visualization
solutions to rethink the events and memory of the 1956 Revolution using the
digital collections of the Archives. In order to counter the primitively
revisionist new official interpretation of the 1956 Revolution, Blinken OSA
has built a comprehensive knowledge archive. The 1956 Digital Repository offers an
insight into collections which have never been published or seen before, have
been considered lost or have not been accessible to the public so far. Their
purpose is to make people think and gain a better understanding of the lessons
to be learned from the Revolution on the basis of these authentic documents, making
publicly available all the surviving film footage, photographs and a large
collection of textual documents.
Based on extensive archival research, the Archives launched a new website on 1956 Hungarian refugees who received asylum in the United States. The project was completed with the generous support of the Blinken family. The website contains still unexplored or less known materials (text documents and photographs) from the archive of the International Rescue Committee at the Hoover Institution and the relevant collections of the National Archives and Records Administration of the US. These recently revealed and digitized records are now available online for scholars and the wider public in both Hungarian and English. The bilingual site, which will be regularly updated can be consulted at: www.refugees1956.org | www.menekultek1956.org
Combining the two defining themes of the year, on the sixtieth anniversary of the crushing of the 1956 Revolution, a concert was staged in Blinken OSA : “Stabat Mater for the Victims and Refugees”. The Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who died at a tragically young age, was performed on the 60th anniversary of the crushing of the revolution to commemorate the thousands who died or were wounded and the hundreds of thousands who were forced into exile.
Blinken OSA has founded an annual Aaron Swartz fellowship, in agreement with his family. OSA has been one of the initiators of the open access movement, one of the organizers of the 2001 Budapest Open Access Initiative. Aaron was a personal friend of the Archives, which he visited to discuss the future of the open access movement. The fellowship is awarded each year to a promising young technology expert, scholar or activist working at the intersection of humanities, social sciences and technology studies or technological solutions. The fellowship is especially intended for those, with or without a degree, who have strong practical skills in developing technological tools to make knowledge and data broadly available to the public; who have an interest in challenging information management practices in libraries and archives; who are ready to contribute to building innovative visual taxonomies or catalogs based on unorthodox ideas; and who can challenge the control of information by governments and publishers to promote civil liberties and online activism.
I have worked at the Vera & Donald Blinken Open Society Archives for almost 10 years. I was originally looking for a temporary part-time job, then after receiving my first university degree I became a research room coordinator. During the years spent at the reference services, I met thousands of researchers and recognized that the institute was not just a stage, but a place that has become one of the most significant reference points of my life. Meanwhile, my tasks were expanded. I now have responsibilities along the entire archival process. In recent years I have mainly been doing archival processing.
The most exciting part of the work is what I call modeling, that is setting up a theoretical framework representing the system and functional structure of the materials to be processed. This reminds me of the intellectual activities I enjoy doing in my spare time, like playing a go match against a skilled opponent or composing a song from the first beats to programming the synthesizer.
Archival work brings closer the time when my parents were teenagers, I call this period ‘the era of legends’. Keeping in my hands the materials documenting the social and political reality of these decades reminds me of long afternoons spent listening to entertaining and sometimes horrifying stories of the socialist Hungary and Romania. Working with archival materials has turned legends into tangible reality for me. These stories are not for the entertainment of children as they contain serious lessons for a generation that is responsible for a more hopeful future.
I joined the Archives in April 2016 and found myself not only in a challenging new position as coordinator of the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, but also with a job that just as well could be my hobby. I love films, I love organizing events and bringing different people together, especially when all this involves some form of art. Ever since I was small, I have always hoped that my friends from different parts of my life would become friends with each other too – high school friends to get along with my university mates or people I met while volunteering. Besides the film screenings Verzio Festival also includes discussions, concerts, workshops, exhibitions, which all have the potential to bring people together and more importantly, to make them think and feel deeper about the problems and lives of others. I used to do my work only for the sake of art, but it feels just right to promote socially sensitive art in a world where there is so much more work to do to ensure basic human conditions and rights. I believe that the films Verzio presents have an amazing ability to sensitize people to social problems and to open new dimensions of understanding.
I believe the films we show deserve to be seen and discussed both as pieces of art and as tools in the education of human rights awareness. Verzio has a unique role in Hungary, being the only human rights film festival in the country, and it is now more important than ever to strengthen it by increasing the number of supporters. One of my main goals is to gain even more attention and reach a wider audience with our programs, and I think that one of the best ways to do this is too appeal to young people. Besides the yearly film festival, one of the most important projects this year was acquiring the screening rights of some films for a longer term, in order to use them as educational tools in high school students’ education. We are working on a toolkit to help teachers complete the screenings with a follow up discussion.
I am thankful to my colleagues who started the festival and are willing to share their expertise with me daily in order to build an impactful project.
To paraphrase the title of one the exhibitions of 2016, this year was characterized by a kind of silent opposition and resilience. In an environment where democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights declined dramatically, along with tolerance towards otherness and towards marginalized, vulnerable people, Blinken OSA had to find new and alternative ways to reach out to its diverse audiences. It put more emphasis on education, on crowd-sourcing and communicating with its online community, and, most notably, it stepped up efforts to make its holdings available to high school students from across the country and involved them in its public programs.
Thematically, Blinken OSA explored the many faces and manifestations of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, and elaborated on the role of archives vis-à-vis the global refugee and migration crisis. It spent time on deliberating about domestic poverty, equality and social responsibility, and on mapping the obvious but often elusive relations between politics and nationalism, environmental matters, and sport.
The first archival documentary film created entirely by the Archives and reflecting on its work was also completed in 2016. Meanwhile, Blinken OSA launched a new fellowship, an archival specialization, and a teacher training program; and maintained its regular archival work, teaching, research and public programs at the expected professional level, with a devoted staff that had decreased significantly by the second part of the year.
The Archives continued where it left off the previous year: it kept a focus on Spain by organizing a series of screenings of rarely seen documentaries invoking memories of the Spanish Civil War and a finissage for The Mexican Suitcase exhibition, involving artistic performances by anexperimental choir, Soharóza, and the Rita Góbi contemporary dance company. Spain was revisited in the highly successful exhibition entitled Olympics and Politics: Berlin/Barcelona 1936, which, by placing the Summer Olympics and the Olimpíada Popular in a comparative context, examined how these international sporting events became the terrains for ideological and physical battles in the heavily politicized 1930s.
What followed was a journey through the politicized landscapes of the Gabčikovo-Nagymaros Dam System, which was planned and partly built on the Danube in Hungary and Slovakia, and the environmental struggles of the Danube Circle (Duna Kör) against the works amidst the toppling of the communist regime in Hungary. The exhibition Some Kind of Opposition, the film screenings organized in conjunction with it and the musical finale were complemented by an absolutely unique new acquisition: the former president of the Danube Circle, János Vargha, donated his personal and research papers to Blinken OSA. Remaining on the same track, the Chernobil Marathon commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the nuclear power plant disaster through a series of creative workshops for high school students on energy safety and sustainability.
In the political climate delineated above, two events proved to be very important. Blinken OSA hosted a multidisciplinary conference on dehumanization and understanding the politics of human nature from the 18th century onwards, and convened a major conference named Poverty Revisited, dedicated to the memory of István Kemény, the most prominent Hungarian sociologist working on poverty and the situation of Roma. His personal papers from the Archives’ holdings were made accessible to the public on this occasion. An exhibition of documents, photos and film excerpts from Kemény’s joint creative work with film director Pál Schiffer, as well as workshops for high school students on homelessness animated by homeless activists, accompanied the event. Another new collection, this time that of the Chance for Children Foundation, an NGO focusing on school desegregation and fighting for equal rights in education for Romani and marginalized children, was also donated to Blinken OSA.
Reflecting on its own methods of comparative, simultaneous and transparent archiving, the team of the Yugoslav Archive Project created a documentary film, which premiered at the Prime Time Nationalism conference organized at the intersection of propaganda, media and nationalism. The conference invited media scholars, visual artists, filmmakers, journalists and archivists to explore, on the basis of TV broadcasts from Blinken OSA’s holdings, the nature of politically controlled state television, and how it influenced and shaped events, national identities, political discourses, memory and reconciliation after the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia.
Still within the realm of audiovisual collections, Blinken OSA managed to complete the processing and online publication of 26,000 items from the Russian Service Audio Archives of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, thus securing free and open access to news and political programs, radio plays, talk shows and on-air readings from 1953 to 1993, which were often produced on the basis of the Radios’ samizdat collections. Meanwhile, it received accruals to the videos of the Black Box (Fekete Doboz) Foundation, which is becoming the Archives’ most important collection on the 1989 regime change and its aftermath in Hungary. The personal collection of Imre Schuller, a prominent documentary filmmaker and cameraman, also found its final repository at Blinken OSA.
For the second year in a row, the Verzio Film Festival had special sections on the global refugee experience and people on the move. But ever since the refugee crisis peaked in Hungary, Blinken OSA has also been interested in how human rights archives can play a role in recordkeeping and documentary practices related to forcibly displaced people. It dedicated a special session to this topic during the 37th Annual Meeting of the European Coordination Committee on Human Rights Documentation, and later invited prominent speakers to lecture on the issue of long-term preservation and access to records and various forms of documentation that are so important in the life of refugees. Several staff members also participated at an international workshop on the contribution made by migrants and refugees to the making of Europe. The recital Emigrant Tunes evoked the thoughts of Béla Bartók on cultural diversity and its impact on music, while a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater was staged in memory of the victims and refugees of 1956. The stories of Hungarian refugees in the United States and their successful or failed attempts to establish a new life there were told by means of original archival sources displayed on a thematic website.
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, the revolutionary spirit was maintained throughout the year. Under the slogan The Revolution is not the Past, a series of debates for university students in the vein of the Petőfi Circle of 1956 and an online face recognition contest to identify the everyday heros of the uprising, as well as two competitions for high school teachers and students, were organized. The latter, entitled Encode the Past! 1956 Remixed challenged students to use digital technology, smart devices, and innovative visualizations or develop software applications and games to reinterpret the revolution on the basis of primary archival sources provided to them by Blinken OSA. An intriguing combination of two retrospectives, one on the entire 20th century from the personal viewpoint of a media artist, and another on the 1956 revolution through the lens of contemporary foreign media, was realized in the exhibition My Diary-Your News. To further diversify the programs, a book launch on the turbulent year of 1956 was also held. In addition Péter Pallai, long-time editor of BBC’s Hungarian programs, donated his collection to Blinken OSA, containing, among other items, rare sources on 1956 from the archives of BBC and the British Foreign Office.
Blinken OSA also launched three long-due, and hopefully sustainable programs. It announced the first call for applications for the Aaron Swartz Fellowship, named after the “prolific hacker and free culture activist”and “the champion of the free world,” inviting practitioners, experts or scholars working at the intersection of humanities, social sciences and technology studies or technological solutions. It advertised the Archives and Evidentiary Practices Specialization, offering CEU students in the Department of Legal Studies and Department of History theoretical grounding and practical skills in working and pursuing research in a contemporary and innovative archive. And it obtained state accreditation to launch a Continuing Education Program for high school history teachers on 20th century Hungarian history.
As far as staff were concerned, the second part of 2016 was somewhat unusual. While Blinken OSA managed to hire a new Samizdat Archivist in the fall, its Data Analyst, Digital Archivist and Chief Archivist moved on to pursue new careers, and its Director went on sabbatical. In this period, the Archives was managed by a team of three senior staff members and the head of administration, and the tasks of the unfilled positions were distributed among the remaining professional staff.
In 2016 the Vera & Donald Blinken Open Society Archives continued to expand its historical holdings following the goals designated in its collection development strategy with a special focus on the Cold War, human rights and civil society.
On OSA’s YouTube channel a continuously expanding set of short movies and documentary movies are available online for research.
This year we concentrated our efforts on the general Central and East European press collection. A two-year data consolidation project was initiated, aiming to recatalog more than 2,000 journals and newspapers and to add their standard records to the integrated catalog. Physical inventory and rearrangement of the journals is being done parallel with the progress of the standardization work, which is to be finalized by the end of 2017.
Most of these publications were acquired by Radio Free Europe where incoming press was originally handled, analyzed and abstracted by the staff of the Eastern European Archives. The collection covers a broad range of topics and genres: it includes not only official publications issued by the communist parties, labor unions and governments, but also the journals of emigré publishing houses; it includes literary, scientific and military journals and statistical and law reviews, as well as lifestyle magazines, satirical newspapers, and regional press.
As a result of cooperation with the AV unit, the film library records were also successfully standardized and integrated into the library system, thus they are also available through the integrated OSA catalog.
Featuring over 4200 titles, Blinken OSA’s Film Library contains documentaries, fiction and propaganda films. Each year, hundreds of submissions to Verzio International Documentary Film Festival are added to the collection making it the country’s largest, continuously growing, freely accessible human rights documentary collection. In 2016 close to 200 films were added to the collection which is available for research and educational purposes free of charge in Blinken OSA’s Research Room.
In 2016 the refugee crisis inspired hundreds of documentary works and Verzio Festival curated a special thematic section addressing the crisis. Archiving and making these films available for research and education purposes aims to assist students, educators, researchers, and the general public to engage in dialogue about pressing social issues.
The Film Library is maintained and developed by a team of film professionals as well as dedicated interns and volunteers throughout the year.
The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives’ (Blinken OSA) Records Management Services were established to preserve the institutional memory and history of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) network and to provide recordkeeping consultancy services to the Foundations’ institutions. The Blinken OSA Records Management (RM) team thus serves the Open Society Institute–Budapest office (OSI-Budapest) and other OSF offices throughout Europe, including the national foundations, while also providing RM services to the Central European University’s (CEU) offices and departments.
Our strategy had been for years to try to become involved in the creation phase of the records’ life cycle. However, especially in the case of the national foundations, scattered in several countries, we gradually shifted to rescue operations, risk management, and the performance of preservation activities. The reason for this is that the Blinken OSA RM team has limited capacity and funding. Additionally, the global network with its geographically dispersed foundations and offices constitutes a real challenge for the team.
The RM team maintains three on-site records centers and two off-site storage facilities for OSI-Budapest and CEU. In 2016, 2311 containers (boxes/binders) of paper based records were transferred from OSI-Budapest and CEU programs/departments/offices to the three on-site records centers, and 221 containers were retrieved by OSI and CEU staff members. As a regular RM procedure, 664 containers of records were destroyed after their retention period expired and 18 containers of permanent records were transferred to Blinken OSA for long-term preservation.
Prior to the relocation of the OSI-Budapest office building and CEU departments in the summer of 2016, the RM team worked closely with OSI and CEU staff on clean-up days, updating Records Retention Schedules, training staff on selecting, organizing, and describing records to be archived, as well as on using the records center/storage control database for records transfers. In the first half of the year, a thorough inventory was made in the previous OSI records storage to facilitate a smooth move to the new building.
Once OSI-Budapest started operations on its new premises, OSA RM staff moved 2498 containers to the new records storage facilities. All the containers received new specific shelf locations which were registered in the storage control database. By the end of the year, the Records Center returned to its normal operations. In connection with the inauguration of the new CEU campus buildings and the CEU Library in September, the RM team provided CEU staff with records management and archival instructions, while additional departments archived paper records before their relocation to new office places.
Blinken OSA's RM team assists the OSF network and CEU in recordkeeping and in the preservation of electronic records as well. Electronic records of permanent value are uploaded continuously to the Open Society Foundations’ permanent documents digital repository, which currently stores more than 100,000 individual files.
In 2016, OSA 's RM team continued, within the framework of the Roma Digital Repository Project (RDRP), OSA’s major OSF network related activity, the collection and preservation of Roma-related paper and electronic records of several OSF foundations and Roma programs. Paper records of permanent value were digitized and, along with existing electronic records of permanent value, uploaded to a digital repository. After the Decade of Roma Inclusion Secretariat Foundations and the Making the Most of the EU Funds for the Roma (MTM) OSF programs closed their operations, all of their remaining records were transferred to OSA, sorted, consolidated with previously received records, and included into the RDRP digital repository. More than 200 binders of the Roma Memorial University Scholarship Program’s (RMUSP) hard copy materials covering the period 2001 to 2006 were consolidated, while selected metadata was recorded for RDRP.
Phase 3 of RDRP ended with the development of the Proof of Concept (POC). In this phase, we worked together closely with a Romania-based IT company. The POC is a platform built to transform the accumulated data, both structured and unstructured, into actionable data sets ready for analysis and visualization. The POC is based on the 270,000 materials already collected and digitized within the framework of this project. During the creation of the POC, a number of operations were undertaken, including the extraction of information from digitized documents; the use of existing metadata to validate findings; the establishment of a unique taxonomy that can be transformed into machine-readable ontology; and the running of queries on multilingual datasets using machine translation. The project and POC developments have been regularly discussed with stakeholders, i.e. with independent foundations and organizations and with OSF and CEU Roma programs.
Blinken OSA's RM Service is also increasingly involved in the afterlife of the records it takes care of. The long-term preservation of documents of historical value produced by the OSF network and CEU is an integral part of the work of the RM Service. Though not considered strictly records management tasks, the archival processing and digitization of CEU and OSF records of historical value is now performed by those who know these documents best: the members of the RM Service.
In the first part of 2016 Blinken OSA recorded a steady growth in the number of visits and the number of new visitors, a practice that continued from 2015. However, the second part of 2016 brought a small decline in these figures illustrating new trends and research interests. In general, OSA recorded 244 new researchers in 2016 which is 18 more than in the previous year.
One of the most important trends in 2016 was the increase in the number of visits by Hungarian students. Also the number of professionals from Hungary increased by almost 100 percent (from 24 in 2015 to 47 in 2016) which can be read as a sign of growing recognition and trust on their part towards OSA’s collections. The number of students from Hungary also grew from 23 in 2015 to 36 in 2016 which is also a significant increase by over 50 percent. All of this underscores the fact that CEU and the Blinken OSA have become an important and trusted research institution deeply rooted in Hungarian academic, cultural and research life.
While 2015 was characterized by the return of CEU students to OSA, data for 2016 show that this number oscillated. The reasons for this can be partially explained by CEU's academic curricula and CEU professors’ intention to advise their students to use OSA’s archival and other sources. Another important factor is that more and more of our sources are made available online, so an increasing number of students pay a virtual visit to OSA from their homes.
Also, many students take digital pictures in the Research Room or read digital records through the website, the process of cognitive processing of historical sources is no longer happening in the Research Room, but somewhere else instead. This is an important trend that needs careful observation and analysis as it creates several important challenges.
Another notable trend is the slight decline in the visits of foreign students, professionals and university staff. The reasons for this are not quite clear but can partly be explained by the drop in the number of available travel grants and by the fact that more digital content is available online.
The number of visits per day continued to be relatively high - 6.4 in 2016 (6.5 in 2015) and the average time per researcher spent in the research room is almost 4 hours (03:57 minutes in 2016). The Visegrad grant project which has been in operation for the past 6 years significantly contributed to a better exploration but also a solid promotion of OSA’s audiovisual, digital and traditional textual holdings.
Concerning the requests of archival collections, two thirds of these were related to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty materials which are still the most researchedone of Blinken OSA's collections. The most researched topics were those concerning the Hungarian anniversaries (Hungarian 1956 Revolution, Imre Nagy and other victims’ biographies, etc.). The research of some historical and political themes was inspired by OSA’s old and new public projects such as the Yellow-Star Houses, Symbols of Socialism and others. The second most frequent set of requests concerns human rights issues, while in the third place we find requests relating to the Soros Foundation network.
In general, the statistical data for 2016 show that stable growth continued from the previous year. Although we did not surpass some figures from 2015, OSA continues to be very busy and devoted to its ultimate goal – a free and easy access to archival collections. The uploading of several thousands of digital images to OSA’s website provided researchers with an important resource in pursuing their research interests and strategies. Thus, we concluded 2016 with strong figures, hoping that in 2017 OSA will be able to preserve them at a high level.
Blinken OSA’s special Education Outreach Program was launched in 2016 to engage and cooperate with K-12 level teachers and student communities in Hungary.
On the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Blinken OSA launched a series of public events including two creative competition calls for students and teachers.
The call - launched in partnership with Prezi - invited youth under the age of 20 to present the story of the 1956 Revolution via innovative visualization solutions and/or by developing special software applications using Blinken OSA’s special 1956 digital collections. A professional jury made up of leading Hungarian technology professionals reviewed the applications and selected the best student works.
The winning project was made by Rebeka Dittrich (16). Rebeka created an interactive application designed to familiarize primary school students with the main events of 1956 presented via audiovisual materials from the 1956 Digital Collection, and illustrated with the original drawings of the author.
The call invited high school teachers across Hungary to present the events of 1956, its consequences, as well as the lessons learned using primary sources from Blinken OSA’a special digital collections which contains unique original footage, photos, audio recordings and textual documents related to the events. This competition accepted ideas for original and creative scripts for commemorative events in schools, or installations to be displayed in schools. A professional jury composed of historians reviewed the applications and selected the best works.
The winning project was conceived by Péter Gyurcsik jointly with members of the Humanities Working Group at János Neumann Technical High School, with special help from student Bálint Mérő. The applicants created a phone app called Be A Hero of ’56!, an interactive “revolutionary” adventure game. The application mapped the main locations of the Revolution across Budapest, and attached to them relevant content from Blinken OSA’s 1956 Digital Collection. The app was tested on the school commemoration day in October, and involved 600 students and 70 teachers. Separated into 40 teams, students explored the city and the historic locations while collecting points gained by solving historic puzzles and other creative tasks. The goal of this exercise was to revisit the past as an informative, interactive and collective experience.
The awards (altogether close to 4 million HUF) came from a generous donation by former US Ambassador Donald Blinken and his wife, Vera Blinken, and were handed out at a special award ceremony. The winner of the Student Competition was also offered an internship position at Prezi.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, this creative workshop invited high school students to revisit the events via archival sources, and examine its global echoes, media coverage, and implications today. The workshop also encouraged dialog about alternative energy resources through creative games like modeling a school operating fully on alternative energy resources.
During the 3 days of the program, 216 students from 8 high schools in Budapest and surrounding towns joined the workshop.
In conjunction with Poverty Revisited, a conference organized to revisit the work and heritage of renowned Hungarian sociologist István Kemény, Blinken OSA organized workshops for high school students to explore issues of poverty, exclusion and solidarity.
The workshops were run by activists from an NGO called The City Is Everyone’s, supporting homeless people. These occasions provided an insight into the complexities and challenges of living in the streets. The students had the opportunity to experience the everyday difficulties of homeless people via interactive games. The goal of the project was to learn about the complex societal dimensions of homelessness, and explore concepts of solidarity and social responsibility. During the 2 days of the workshop over 100 students from 7 high schools in Budapest and surrounding towns joined the workshop.
Blinken OSA developed its first Teacher Training Program for Hungarian high school history teachers. Following the CEU Senate Approval, the official accreditation process was initiated at the Hungarian Ministry of Education. The program was approved and granted accreditation for 5 years.
The training program Scopes and Constraints in 20th Century Hungarian History uses the rich collections of Blinken OSA and offers tools for a perspectivist and critical exploration of 20th century socio-political events which generated radically different interpretations in the historical memory of Hungarians and the various ethnic groups in the Carpathian Basin. The first course is scheduled to run in the spring of 2017.
Of the four main pillars of Blinken OSA’s activities the archival work and the public programs are the most visible. However, teaching and research activities are equally important parts of Blinken OSA’s intellectual portfolio. Both of the latter activities have a long history in Blinken OSA and produced important achievements in the year 2016, too.
Archives, Evidence and Human Rights is the title of the multidisciplinary course traditionally taught by three members of Blinken OSA staff, Ivan Szekely, Csaba Szilagyi and Andras Mink. The course was taught the 15th time, offered to the students of the Department of Legal Studies and the Department of History of CEU. The three-credit course attracted students with different backgrounds, working on topics related to recorded memory, historical analysis and representations of oppressive regimes, and retroactive justice. Students were required to do intensive individual research work in Blinken OSA under the supervision of the teaching fellows, and to produce a final essay based on the findings of their research. In addition to classes taught in the headquarters of the Archives, several workshops were organized in Blinken OSA’s Research Room where students had the opportunity to inspect original archival documents and analyze their evidentiary value in human rights related cases. In 2016 one of the workshops was devoted to a discussion with Professor Anne Gilliland, Director of the Archival Studies specialization at UCLA and Director of the international Archival Education and Research Initiative, who also gave a public lecture during her visit in Blinken OSA.
Oksana Sarkisova, member of the Visual Studies Platform at CEU, worked at the intersection of research and teaching in collaboration with faculty from the Department of History and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. The cross-disciplinary Platform invited CEU students and faculty to engage with theories and practices of analogue and digital image-making, as well as interpretation, through a web of interrelated activities, including thematic colloquia, workshops, summer schools and a variety of cross-departmental courses. Oksana, in collaboration with Professor Renata Uitz, taught the course Human Rights and Documentary Cinema for students of the Human Rights MA and LLM. The course introduced ten recent thought-provoking, educational, professionally crafted, and visually engaging documentary films from different parts of the world addressing a variety of human rights issues and discussed a variety of styles of documentary filmmaking as well as the role of the new media in creating human rights documentaries. Oksana was also preparing, together with members of CEU faculty, a new non-degree certificate program in Visual Theory and Practice.
Gabriella Ivacs participated in the program committee and faculty of the new two-year M.A. program officially known as Cultural Heritage Studies: Academic Research, Policy, and Management. The program involved different academic disciplines and units related to cultural heritage, including historical studies, cultural anthropology and sociology, humanities, environmental studies and policy, public policy, and business and management studies.
Andras Mink compiled and submitted the application for the educational program for history schoolteachers, “Scopes and Constraints in 20th Century Hungarian History”, which was accredited both by the CEU Senate and the Office of Education, Hungary.
Every exhibition and public program organized in Blinken OSA involves substantial background research in history, arts, or archivistics. In 2016 the most important such research activities were the preparatory work for the planned exhibition about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, conducted by Andras Mink in collaboration with historian Mihaly Dobrovits; the research into the symbols of socialist art, conducted by Katalin Szekely, to be presented in the form of an exhibition the following year; the collecting and editing of materials for the exhibition on the 1936 Berlin-Barcelona Olympic games by Andras Mink; the exhibition on the joint work of film director Pal Schiffer and sociologist Istvan Kemeny, prepared by Zsuzsa Zadori for the conference Poverty Revisited in September 2016; and all of the film screenings, including the ones connected to certain public events, also required substantial background research, such as the interactive Verzio Doclab conducted by Oksana Sarkisova.
Members of Blinken OSA staff conducted research in other research institutions and participated in several conferences and professional meetings in Hungary and abroad. Andras Mink did research in the archives of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and copied 4000 pages of selected records on 1956 Hungarian refugees in the US. This material became part of the new website created by Blinken OSA and launched in November 2016, http://www.refugees1956.org/ . Csaba Szilagyi gave a presentation titled “Reimagining the Archive of the Powerless: Toward a Virtual Model Encouraging Community Contribution” at the “Honing the Visual: Evolving Practices in Human Rights Work” conference in Philadelphia; he organized the 37th Annual Meeting of ECCHRD in Blinken OSA, and gave a presentation on The Yugoslavia Archive Project; Csaba also gave a presentation in Amsterdam at the conference Confronting Violent Pasts and Historical (In)Justice in December. Oksana Sarkisova attended the Pordenone Silent Film Festival and the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA). She organized or co-organized several archival seminars for Blinken OSA staff in order to discuss important research and professional issues in-house. Ivan Szekely participated in the Oslo meeting of the Document Lifecycle Management Forum and served as the rapporteur of the Data Protection Workgroup.
Csaba Szilagyi organized a two-day international conference at Blinken OSA in May, titled “Prime Time Nationalism: The Role of TV Broadcasts/Archives in the Aftermath of the Yugoslav Wars”, on the manipulative role played by state television during both the outbreak and duration of the Yugoslav wars. The conference also served for the first performance of the documentary film “Room without a view: inside the processing of former Yugoslav television broadcasts” produced by the team members of the Yugoslav Archive Project. In September Ivan Szekely organized a two-day conference and event series in Blinken OSA, Poverty Revisited, on the occasion of the documentary heritage of outstanding Hungarian sociologist Istvan Kemeny being made publicly available. During the conference researchers and professionals – including Andras Mink and Ors Lehet Tari of Blinken OSA – as well as artists and activists attempted to reconsider the problem of poverty and exclusion.
Since its inception in 1995 OSA has offered several different research grants and has supported close to a thousand scholars.
Of the current three schemes the Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA was the first to open in 2010, offered jointly by the International Visegrad Fund and the Open Society Archives at Central European University. Since then it has supported 127 scholars with a maximum two-month long grant of 2,000 EUR for conducting research in OSA's collection related to the Cold War, communism and grave violations of human rights. In 2016 Blinken OSA welcomed twenty-one Visegrad scholars in Budapest. During their stay they not only made professional contacts with each other but formed closer ties with the staff of the Archives and the CEU community as well. Their reports are published on OSA’s website, and their final presentation within the framework of the Visegrad Scholarship at Blinken OSA lecture series was open to the general public and attended by the OSA and CEU community, fellow scholars, professional colleagues and representatives of the International Visegrad Fund.
The second grant, which opened shortly after the first one in 2010, is the Hoover Archives Research Assistance Scholarship, offered jointly by the Freedom Broadcasting Foundation (formerly the RFE/RL Fund) and the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives at Central European University to support online research in the Hoover Archives. 2016’s fellow, Elena Ion PhD (Center Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University) focused on Demolition Men: Architects and the Ruins of Economic Restructuring in Communist Romania.
Our most recent scholarship is the Aaron Swartz Fellowship, which was launched in 2016 jointly by Blinken OSA and the Open Society Foundations. Every year, this 10,000 USD scholarship, founded in memory of Aaron Hillel Swartz (1986 –2013), American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist, supports a promising young technology expert, scholar or activist working at the intersection of humanities, social sciences and technology studies or technological solutions. The first ever Aaron Swartz Fellow was Balazs Krich, from Hungary, whose research focuses on The locally funded Europe: Analyzing the composition and grant-effectiveness of EU subsidies on a municipality level.
2016 was a dynamic year with many public events at Blinken OSA; altogether about nine thousand people visited the public programs that the Archives offered during the year.
The Mexican Suitcase exhibition opened in December (2015) with the support and close cooperation of the Spanish Embassy and the Cervantes Institute of Budapest, and could be visited till the end of February. This legendary traveling exhibition attracted a large number of visitors and confirmed Galeria Centralis’s right to a place on the cultural map of Budapest. It was a powerful start to our programs but what followed was a variety of high quality exhibitions with many related events such as film screenings, public talks, public lectures, premiere screenings and student programs with hosted events.
The oldest genre of our public programs came in a wide variety during 2016. Following the powerful start provided by The Mexican Suitcase a young artist and photographer was given the opportunity to present his artistic research project, revisiting the unresolved controversy about the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Dam System that was planned and partly built along the Danube in Hungary and Slovakia. The Some kind of opposition exhibition also traced the activities of the Duna Kör (Danube Circle) – one of the first environmental initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe – and its important role as a civic movement during the years of regime change in Hungary. An accompanying program of panel discussions, presentations and film screenings formed an essential part of the exhibition.
The third major exhibition of the year was Olympics and Politics - Berlin / Barcelona 1936, which opened in the summer of 2016 on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Berlin Summer Olympics and the Olimpíada Popular. The exhibition examined how these international sporting events became an arena for ideological and physical battles in the heavily politicised 1930s, and how the two Games acquired different political significance. Using archival sources (newsreel footage, films, photos, etc.), the exhibition viewed the two-week spectacle of the Berlin Games through the lenses of its counterpart, the Workers’ Olympics. This exhibition was also a collaboration with two partners: the Goethe Institute, and the Cervantes Institute.
The fourth major exhibition of the year was My Diary – Your News /Daniela Comani: It was me. My Diary 1900–1999 in the Context of the 1956 Revolution in the Western World, was organized in close co-operation with the Goethe Institute and on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. On one hand the exhibition covers time: the Berlin based Artist, Daniela Comani’s large art installation, It was me. My Diary 1900–1999 depicts the whole of the 20th century through 365 entries in an imaginary diary, while constantly forcing the viewer to take the position of the principal actor. On the other hand the exhibition positioned itself outside Hungary to reflect upon the events of 60 years ago.
Besides a dynamic range of exhibitions, the year was rich in film screenings such as the Eyes on Spain series of 7 screening nights with a choir performance, public lecture and a finissage with a dance performance, all related programs of The Mexican Suitcase exhibition. The Some Kind of Opposition exhibition was also accompanied by an interesting series of events that included two film screenings from Black Box and the works of Ádám Csillag.
Blinken OSA teamed up with the French Institute in Budapest to premiere screen the prime-time documentary Hitler’s Last Year.
This was followed by a fascinating screening series called the Chernobyl Marathon-Reactivating Chernobyl –Reactive Citizen. It was a two–day series of programs lasting from morning till late at night and marked the thirtieth anniversary of the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl. The complex program included a small exhibition of selected OSA documents on the disaster, screenings, book launches, literary readings and student workshops.
In September a film screening and performance entitled Emigrant Tunes - Béla Bartók’s thoughts on cultural diversity - took place in Galeria Centralis at Blinken OSA.
In November renowned film maker and director Ildikó Enyedi participated in a discussion after the screening of her film My 20th Century. The program was part of the My Diary – Your News Exhibition.
In January as part of the Mexican Suitcase exhibition Sonia García Lopez gave a talk entitled The Visual Politics of Gesture - Civilian victims and the imagery of the Spanish Civil War. In February Victoria Harms gave an interesting talk entitled Road to Redemption, Why West Germans Care(d) about Hungary. As part of the Some Kind of Opposition exhibition in March Tamara Steger from the CEU Environmental Department talked about What Happened to Environmental Justice in CEE followed by Maja & Reuben Fowkes from the Translocal Institute, who gave a talk entitled Walking without Footprints. In the same series János Vargha, one of the founders of Duna Kör, put the Danube case in a global context while Alex Fischer from the CEU School of Public Policy and WWF Switzerland gave a presentation called Political Lobbying – How to Effectively Impact on a Policy Process.
An ambitious plan to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution began with a public lecture and discussion series outside of the Archives at ELTE University in March. The spring public events series included two competitions, one called ‘Encode the Past! 1956 Remixed’ – Student Competition, and the other Let’s Speak the Truth about ‘56 – Teacher Competition.
In May the Archives hosted another public lecture by Thomas W. Laqueur from the University of California, Berkeley, entitled Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead.
Great public interest was attracted by a presentation and public lecture about Carl Lutz in Budapest by Krisztián Ungváry, Historian. The public lecture marked the occasion when 230 pictures taken in Budapest from 1942 till the end of the war were made available to the public. The photos are now part of the Fortepan online photo collection.
Anne J. Gilliland from the University of California Los Angeles gave the last public lecture of the year in November, with the title There is always a before and an after: documentation, archives and the global refugee crisis.
In September Blinken OSA organized a two-day conference in collaboration with the Voices of the 20th Century Archive and Research Framework, where researchers, professionals, artists and activists reconsidered the problems of poverty and exclusion and their significance in today’s society, and outlined their vision of the future in this field. The title of the conference was Poverty Revisited.
In October a book launch was organized for Simon Hall from the University of Leeds, who introduced his new book entitled 1956, The World in Revolt.
In November a music program was organized entitled Stabat Mater for the Victims and Refugees of 1956. The Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who died at a tragically young age, was performed on the 60th anniversary of the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution to commemorate the thousands who died or were wounded and the hundreds of thousands who were forced into exile.
Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival was held for the 13th time on November 8-13, 2016 in Budapest and November 17-19, 2016 in Pécs, Szeged and Székesfehérvár. The festival was opened in the Toldi Cinema by ÁRPÁD SCHILLING (director, founder of Krétakör theatre), most recent in a noble line of extraordinary personalities. The 2016 opening film was SONITA by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (Germany, Switzerland, Iran, 2015). The screening was followed by a concert by Tariqa. Verzio 13 included more than 100 screenings at various locations (Toldi Cinema, Művész Cinema, Kino Café Cinema, Art+ Cinema, Blinken OSA Archive, Apolló Cinema in Pécs, Grand Café Cinema in Szeged and Baratság Cinema in Székesfehérvár). Verzio 13 invited 37 guest filmmakers who engaged with members of the audience in 41 Q&A sessions. 62 films were presented at the festival, including 44 Hungarian Premiers and 1 International Premier.
The main categories were International Panorama - showcasing the best human rights and creative documentaries of last year; Hungarian Panorama - introducing 9 of the best documentaries produced recently in Hungary; Student Film Competition - 11 powerful international student films while 3 blocks of films had a special focus. Arctic Rights and Wrongs - In the Age of Climate Change depicted a globalized Arctic, including films from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. The block was accompanied by a panel discussion. On the Move focused on the pressing problem of the integration of migrants and refugees; the screenings were followed by discussions organized by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. Focus on Ukraine included four films that offered a unique opportunity to see the country and its inhabitants from up close and to understand that the reality is far more complicated than any one-sided manifestation would like us to believe. 1956 as media revolution was a selection of newsreels reporting on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the accompanying discussion with film historians.
Student Verzio screened 6 films in 2016 and had a record number of students visiting from 19 high schools.
DocLab production workshop “The Roads to Integration” took place at the new CEU Mirabaud Media Lab. Eight participants from five countries made seven powerful short films and trailers focusing on people who had to strike new roots and reflect on their journeys or experiences in their new homes. An international team of filmmakers, editors, and human rights experts offered guidance and mentorship in structuring, editing, and post-production. The films were premiered at Blinken OSA Archive and have since been screened at CEU too. All the films are now available at the Festival’s Youtube account.
DunaDOCK, a Hungarian documentary initiative organized a 3-day long masterclass series as part of the Festival in Art+ Cinema. The events provided an opportunity to discuss questions of project development and addressed both creative and financial aspects of filmmaking.
The International Jury awarded Aleksandra Rek for RIGHT SIDE OF CELLO as the winner of the Student Competition, while the Student Jury awarded Daniel Abma for TRANSIT HAVANA as the winner of the Best Human Rights Film. The Audience award went to Roksareh Ghaem Maghami for SONITA.
Several concerts took place after the last screenings finished at Toldi Cinema in cooperation with Toldi Klub.
The crew included several colleagues from OSA and externally contracted part time coordinators, along with 30 volunteers.
From several operational aspects 2016 was a most unusual year at OSA, even though, as in previous years, its core budget, 2 % of CEU’s overall budget, was complemented by the Open Society Foundations’ generous support of 237,000 USD, CEU’s conference support grant of 4,386 EUR for the international “Prime Time Nationalism” conference and the generous gift of 83,311 USD from Vera and Donald Blinken to cover OSA’s 1956-related activities. Without these funds OSA would not have been able to cover the costs of all its Open Society Foundations network-related activities, its extensive processing and digitization operations, its collection extension, professional travel, or two indefinite term and several short-term temporary employment contracts for its projects.
Since its establishment OSA’s public programs have amounted to an average of forty programs per year, but in 2016 the number of programs hosted and organized by OSA was fifty-five, including local and international conferences, film festivals, large-scale exhibitions and awareness raising experimental outreach events targeting Hungarian secondary school students as well as research communities, professionals and the general public. No wonder that this dense program schedule strained OSA’s financial and labor resources. Fortunately, the introduction of more sophisticated organizational patterns and targeted austerity measures brought the distribution of OSA’s workload and its financial situation back into balance by the end of the year.
Although OSA’s activities increased, its human resources were reduced. In addition to the temporary absence of the OSA Director, who spent a sabbatical year in the US starting August 2016, by the end of the year three major positions became vacant at OSA: the posts of the Chief Archivist, Data Analyst and Preservation Officer. All these colleagues, who had had held their post for long periods and were held in high regard by the community, decided to move on to the next stage in their career in 2016. After due consideration OSA decided to temporarily leave these positions vacant in an effort to support CEU’s structural and financial reorganization. The decision entailed the need for a more intense work pace, more effective division of labor and organization of work in order to fill the gaps left by the missing personnel. In the Director’s absence OSA was managed jointly by the Acting Chief Archivist/Head of Human Rights Programs, the OSA Counselor/Senior Research Fellow and the Head of the OSA IT.
At the end of the year OSA had 42 employees, although this figure fluctuated over the months as some colleagues were only contracted for fixed terms. Of the 42 colleagues 25 were full time OSA/CEU employees (including those on external grant support and on the IT payroll), 7 were part time OSA/CEU employees, while one full time OSA/CEU employee was on maternity leave, and one colleague was working as an unpaid volunteer. At the end of the year OSA had 8 CEU student colleagues working on a part time employment contract basis. The geographical distribution of the Blinken OSA staff spanned 11 countries.
Additional tasks in projects that the staff of Blinken OSA could not complete due to understaffing were covered by externally contracted service providers, interns and Central European University (CEU) students on fixed-term employment contracts. Blinken OSA employed 12 CEU student interns on a contractual basis, hosted 7 unpaid volunteers and two Erasmus students, from a total of 12 countries.
OSA’s operational structure has three main pillars: the Public, the Archival and the Administrative programs, all of which are divided into smaller professional units under the supervision and counsel of the Program Heads, and ultimately the Director of OSA. Communication among the programs is supported and reinforced by regular Management Meetings communicated in the Management Meeting Briefs, regular staff meetings, Blinken OSAWeekly, the in-house news bulletin, and the Open Finance Days, when twice a year OSA’s non-personnel-related financial transactions are opened up for inspection by the staff of Blinken OSA.
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