The Museum of the Royal Hungarian Armed Forces Veterans had first opened its doors to the public in 1985 within the walls of the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre. During the festive opening ceremony two Hungarian uniformed Csendor (gendarmes) stood guard welcoming Canadian dignitaries. Photos documenting the opening ceremony were displayed in the museum, the contents of which are in storage waiting to be displayed in the new Hungarian Centre. The interior of the museum was funded by a forty thousand dollars government grant. The museum displayed the irreplaceable collection of the late Vitez Karoly Szathmary who collected the items in his own house. As the collection increased and the space in his house shrank, it needed a temporary storage place and the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto offered to accommodate the collection. In his will Szathmary stated that the collection is to be sent home to Hungary as soon as the Soviets leave the country.
After long discussions and planning the late Dr. Imre Koroknay, president of the museum and Dr. Sandor Szakaly, director of the Hungarian Military Museum signed the agreement which allowed for four museologists to travel to Toronto and prepare the inventory and shipment of the collection to Hungary. Uniforms, arms, military decorations of soldiers fallen in the II.WW, guarded as relics, were carefully packed and sent home.
After the collection’s return home the items had undergone professional restoration and finally, on May 16, 2000 the “Toronto” room at the Hungarian Military Museum in Budapest had opened its doors revealing the fully restored collection. The exhibition was opened by Sandor Csoori, president of the World Federation of Hungarians in the presence of the Toronto Museum’s board of directors.
After the military collection’s return home Prof.Dr.Koroknay suggested a new name for the museum and thus the Hungarian Heritage Museum was born. Dr Koroknay named Mrs Emoke Jordan as the museum’s curator. To fill the display cabinets left empty with museum quality donations was a challenge and finally the new role of the museum was established: it became the home of the Hungarian artists’ creations.
The official opening of the Heritage Museum was on January 22, 2005. Ambassador Istvan Emri honoured the day with his presence. From then on the museum kept open on Sunday afternoons and during cultural events in the Hungarian House.
The deteriorated state of the building of the Hungarian Cultural Centre affected the fate of the museum also. After the flooding in the Library room the books had to be saved and the most valuables were stored in the museum. A small area of the Kodaly room was detached and set up as temporary library, but this could only host the lending library books, the majority of the library reference books stayed in the museum. In such circumstances the operation of the museum became almost impossible.
At present the collections of the museum are in storage, 90 boxes are awaiting the day when a new Hungarian House and thus a new home for the museum will be found. The last to see the collections displayed this year were the students of the Helikon Society’s credit course who visited the museum in October. Being October, the commemorative month of the Revolution of ’56, Mrs Gabriella Ormay presented a lecture about the revolution. Visitors could choose to hear about the museum’s different collections: The Hungarian revolutions of 1956 or 1848, Korosi Csoma Sandor, Hungarian handmade embroideries, The origins of the Szekler Hungarian Runic Script, the Domjan woodcuts. The “museum day” ended with a hearty Hungarian lunch at the Matyas cellar.
Our world renowned Domjan collection
Jozsef Domjan (Budapest, 1907 – New York, 1992) is one of the most renowned woodcut artistof the twentieth century. Already as the bearer of the famous Kossuth and Munkacsy Awards he left Hungary after the ’56 revolution and immigrated to America settling down in New York. Domjan kept his artistic vision feeding on his Hungarian cultural roots in the New World, too. His art reflects the so called Bartokian model – the synthesis of nature and tradition holding eternal values wherever and whenever. His unique style brought him broad recognition; during his American “career” he reached high success: his art spoke to millions through almost 500 exhibitions; his work can be seen in several museum collections. (www.domjanart.hu)