End of the ECoC Year - Project Closing Ceremony in Veszprém

On 8 December 2023, Veszprém County Archives of the National Archives of Hungary presented its activities during the European Capital of Culture 2023 (ECoC) programme, with special regard to the Veszprém Map Wanderer project, at a project closing press conference.

In his opening speech, Director István Boross said that the archives are often confronted with the fact that people are not very familiar with its activities, what happens within the walls of the archives, what is preserved here, what kind of work the archivists do. This is why he saw the ECoC as an excellent opportunity to increase the visibility of the institution through a series of annual programmes, to show as much as possible of the important and interesting data, facts and knowledge that the archives' staff uncover from historical sources and to make them known to the public as widely as possible. The purpose of the press conference is to show what the Archives have received from the ECoC and what the Archives have given to the ECoC and ultimately to the Veszprém city.

At the event, Mária Brányi, Deputy Mayor of Veszprém, said that as the year draws to a close, the city's vision for the ECoC has become a reality. She considers it important that the institutions operating in the city have also been given the opportunity to make their professional workshops better known. The archives' closing event is also about this, as the implementation of the Map Wanderer mobile app will give lay people access to the archives' valuable treasures. The app will allow citizens to satisfy their personal curiosity. They can peek into the past of emblematic, iconic buildings in Veszprém. The deputy mayor said that the values that can be linked to the work of the archives are important, and that anyone can now easily access them using modern technology.

Friderika Mike, Director for Programme Development of VEB 2023 Zrt., the European Capital of Culture, spoke about the joint thinking started with the archives years ago, when they looked at similar projects in other cities and felt that Veszprém needed something similar. A lot of work has gone into the project, and more than a year and a half of processing has made it possible to create the second map database and application of its kind in the country. In any case, the ECoC's aim was to make local history research more visible in a tangible way for people of our time. However, the app will not only give locals but also visitors an insight into the city's past, and the map migration could also be useful for education.

The press conference continued with a presentation of the archives' ECoC projects. István Boross, the director of the archives, presented all the projects carried out by the archives. At the same time, he noted that the archives, in addition to its own projects, also contributed to the realisation of several ECoC projects, such as the opening ceremony of the ECoC, Private Veszprém, Private Balaton, Inota Festival, by researching, digitising and publishing archival documents.

The Veszprém County Archives also participated in the capacity building programme with two applications. This enabled archivists to improve their English language skills through language courses. In the spirit of equal opportunities, several important improvements have been made to the archives building to facilitate the use of archives by people with disabilities. These improvements have led to the archives building being awarded the Access4you Bronze Certified Accessible Site designation. Sustainability has also led to a number of long-term acquisitions. Selective bins were purchased, 10 trees were planted in the archives' courtyard, and re-cups were purchased for events.

The institution has also added an English-language website as part of its visitor-friendly development. An English version was created for the Veszprém County Archives subpage of the Hungarian National Archives' collection portal, so that foreign visitors can also find information about the institution. The website development included a virtual building tour implemented by Forum Hungaricum Nonprofit Ltd., which was also supported by ECoC. The NAH's collection portal has also created a "Map Wanderer" sub-page to promote the project. 

The county archives organised workshops on local history methodology for those interested in local history under the title "Deep Drilling". In addition to presentations by public collection specialists, the workshops also included interactive presentations of archival resources on the history of the town of Veszprém and the villages of the ECoC region. They also provided the opportunity to consult local history issues with archival experts.

The project "In Search of the Lost Seal" has created a special archives escape room. The archives education programme, which was a great success on the Night of Museums, invited families and friends to an exciting investigation in the archives building. The participants could get closer to the history of the city of Veszprém in a playful, interactive way, through exciting, interesting and educational tasks.

The most significant EKF project of the Veszprém County Archives was the Veszprém Map Wanderer. With the completed application, users can roam the streets of historic Veszprém with their smartphones in their hands, identify the houses, find out who lived there in the past and what function the building served. With the help of archival photos, they can also discover how the building or the street they are standing on looked 80-100 years ago, and with the help of digital technology, the mosaics in the photos will ultimately bring old Veszprém to life.

The Map Wanderer is based on the street and house structure of the historical core of city of Veszprém between 1857 and 1947. Based on historical maps of three time periods (1857, 1927, 1947), the digital representation of about 2000 houses and plots of land and their associated data, information and images has been created, as well as descriptions of more than 100 buildings of particular importance in Veszprém's past. Based on the background database developed by NAH, the Map Wanderer mobile application was created by the VEB2023 ECoC developers. At the launch of the application in June, the archives also organised guided tours of the city, thus presenting the use of the Map Wanderer for educational purposes.

In September, the archives implemented a highly successful archival education programme called Treasure Hunter, building on the Map Wanderer. Teams of primary school pupils could take part in a quiz on urban history in the centre of Veszprém. While solving the tasks, they actively used the Map Wanderer app, while at the same time they gained important local history knowledge and strengthened their attachment to their town. The winning teams were also able to visit the National Archives' Palace on Bécsi kapu Square and the Central Restoration Workshop of the Hungarian National Archives on a trip to Budapest.

The press conference ended with an informal discussion. The participants agreed that the NAH Veszprém County Archives, as a strategic partner of the Veszprém-Balaton 2023 European Capital of Culture, has successfully achieved its main objectives. The results of the work carried out in the archives have become more widely known than ever before, thanks to the good management of the funds awarded.

Thank you to all the supporters, all the organisations involved and, last but not least, the staff of the Archives for their work together!

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