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Sopron has a centuries-old tradition of valuing antiques.

Museum history

Perhaps it is enough to mention the work of the military doctor Wolfgang Lazius in Sopron around 1548, who was the first to draw the attention of the city's leaders to the Roman monuments, Roman stones with Roman inscriptions. The result was that the town held them in such high esteem that when the great fire of 1676 damaged the stones, the town had a copy made, preserving both the old and the new. This event had a national impact on the collection of antiquities and the preservation and processing of our historical monuments. In honour of the congress, an exhibition of crafts was held (in the house of János Rupprecht at Fövényverem 21), a plant exhibition was held in the café of the Casino, and an 'antiquities and natural history exhibition' was presented in the room above the entrance to the town theatre. It was open to visitors from 9 am to 12 noon and from 2 to 5 pm, the entrance fee for the antiques exhibition was 6 pence. However, the suppression of the 1848-49 War of Independence made it impossible for a long time to collect monuments and found associations that would have fuelled national sentiment. The post-war period was not favourable for the establishment of a museum.

During the building works of the 1850s and 1860s, archaeological finds proliferated, and the excavation of the gasworks in 1866 brought to light a mass of artefacts, mainly Roman, which led to a movement among the citizens of the town to establish a municipal museum.

Two of the four founding members of the nascent association were archaeologists, one heraldist and one numismatist of European fame (probably Iván Paur, Ferenc Storno, Károly Tibold and Nándor Fábry). Their aim was to carry out historical and archaeological research and collections in the town and its surroundings. Among the 173 members, they elected Károly Tibold as president, Gusztáv Poszvék as head of the archives, Ferenc Storno as head of the museum, two secretaries, a treasurer and a lawyer, and a board of 18 members, most of whom were themselves academics.

On 21 March 1868, the Sopron Historical and Art Society issued an appeal announcing its re-establishment and asking for donations or loans of objects for the museum's exhibition, with a similar list to that of the preparatory committee in 1866. The security of the objects was guaranteed by the association, and the persons appointed to receive them were President Károly Tibold Tibold, museum keeper Ferenc Storno and Henrik Kugler. A receipt was given for the receipt.

On 6 June 1869 the first general meeting was held in the premises of the association in Templom Street. In his report, President Károly Tibold said that the society was founded in 1867, with 8 founding members who contributed a total of 220 ft, 173 patron members who paid 2 ft per year and ten working members. The entire first floor of the Höller House was rented for 300 ft per year. The museum was open not only on Sundays but also on Wednesdays. In addition to books, 1341 items were exhibited under 663 lots. The members were asked to write about the town's past and also to write about the monuments.

In the meantime, Iván Paur, an eminent archaeologist and archivist of the Széchenyi family, organised the foundation of a county archaeological society to save the antiquities found in the county. In 1886, the Sopron County Archaeological Society was founded from Paur's valuable archaeological collection. The many deliberations and amendments to the statutes continued until mid-1896, when the general assembly of the county association decided to donate its existing collection to the county, with the aim of "... unifying this collection with the collection of the free royal city of Sopron, maintaining the ownership rights, into a museum for all time..." The transfer of the county material took place only in April 1898. The position of the chief archivist was filled by the archbishop with Alajos Kugler, the city archivist, while the secretary general of the association was Lajos Bella, a renowned archaeologist and teacher.
In the period that followed, excavations continued apace, and the ethnographic collection was further expanded. The General Assembly proposed a proposal for a motion on the matter, which marked the beginning of a three-year battle to raise the money and then to buy the selected Lenck villa (Deák Square). The building was finally purchased in early 1908. Here, minor and major alterations were made to ensure that the museum's requirement for visitors to circulate around the building was met.

After long preparatory work, the new museum, which had been greatly expanded in its material, was opened in the new building on 5 October 1913 in a splendid ceremony attended by the country's most important museums and representatives of the main authorities. János Rajnárd Bünker was appointed director at the beginning of the construction, and it was largely his work that was praised in the exhibition of the beautiful museum, which has become nationally renowned. In December 1914, the Board of Trustees entrusted Ernő Lauringer with the supervision of the museum. In the year of the outbreak of war, attendance was at the same level as before, but it halved between 1916 and 1917, and then fell even further between the two world wars. During the Second World War, the museum building and its materials were severely damaged. Five per cent of the collections were destroyed, mainly embroideries from the ethnographic collection, material from the natural history collection and other artefacts. Ernő Lauringer, the director, died in 1944 and his post became vacant. After 1945, the National Committee entrusted the management of the museum to Endre Csatkai, who was well acquainted with the history, monuments and cultural history of the town. Endre Csatkai brought great professional experience and competence to the revival of the museum. Sopron was the first rural museum in the country to open a museum after the war, on 28 June 1947. Endre Csatkai's interests extended beyond his chosen field of study, art history, to ethnography, music history, guild history, literature, but also archaeology and natural history.

The museum's collection was growing rapidly and the existing building, which had been proposed for expansion in 1917, could not accommodate the new material except by closing off the ethnographic exhibition in a series of rooms and placing the new material there. This situation was alleviated by the acquisition and renovation of the Lábas House in 1954, and then by the housing of the Small Industries Collection there and its opening on 4 April 1956 with the exhibition 'The History of the Sopron Iron Industry'. In 1952, the museum was named the Ferenc Liszt Museum after the native of the county. As the museum's collection continued to grow, it was necessary to house the archaeological material in a separate building. The Fabricius House in the city centre proved to be a very suitable location. The excavation revealed and restored in its old style one of the country's most important medieval buildings of civilian use for museum purposes. The museum took possession of the building in 1962 and opened its permanent exhibition 'The history of Sopron and its surroundings from prehistoric times to the end of the Middle Ages' on 4 April 1963.

The Roman-period stone gallery, which was exhibited in the hall and basement of the old building, was moved to the huge Gothic-vaulted-ceilinged cellar of the Fabricius house. It was here that the Capitoline Triassic of the Roman city was reconstructed and the stone gallery was permanently installed. It was not opened until six months later, but the work was unanimously acclaimed by experts from abroad and at home.

In the autumn of 1962, when the museums were transferred to the administration of the Council, the Sopron museum was placed under the administration of the Győr-Sopron County Museums Directorate, as a member of the county museum organisation. In the summer of 1963 Endre Csatkai retired and was replaced by Ottó Domonkos, a museologist specialising in ethnography. Following the example of his predecessors, the staff endeavoured to enrich, process and exhibit the material. Of the three buildings, the main building remained in the old 'Palace of Culture', which was modernised and centrally heated in the winter of 1964-65.