Costume Society, Costume Society Ambassadors | November 23, 2016
A Hidden Gem in Budapest: The Goldberger Textile Museum
The Goldberger Textile Museum is situated five kilometres outside of central Budapest and yet even to locals, it’s unfamiliar. When I tell people about my visit, reactions are split into two camps, some expressing disbelief that Budapest has a textile museum and the others going into raptures about how fantastic it is. No one who has visited, it seems, has been disappointed. There is a third, smaller camp, of a certain generation, who may never have heard about the museum, but have personal memories of the old Goldberger factory the museum site now occupies.
The history of the Textile Museum’s collection dates back to the 1950s, when a 1954 law decreed that the textile industry should contribute to the preservation of technology by starting their own museums. After repeated relocations, the Textile and Clothing Industry Museum found a home on the site of the Goldberger Textile Factory in 1992, but eventually closed in 2011. Its successor is today’s Goldberger Textile Museum, an homage to the more than 200 years of industrial and social history of the building and surrounding area in Óbuda.
The original company, founded by Ferenc Goldberg in 1784, produced indigo-dyed textiles on the site of today’s museum. Goldberg changed his name to Goldberger and the business was subsequently run by six generations of his predecessors until it was nationalised under the socialist regime in 1948. (1)
Approaching the museum on foot, you get a sense of the atmosphere of this formerly industrious corner of the city. Surrounded by socialist era apartments, reminding us of the number of workers that depended on the textile industry, the former factory site takes up almost two street blocks, made up of nineteenth and turn of the century buildings. It’s a very interesting site to see the different layers of Budapest’s history. Today the warehouses are converted into smart shops and cafes, frequented by office workers on their lunch break, marking the latest period.
It’s not only the approach to the Goldberger museum that’s immersive, however. The museum’s exhibition is fresh, cutting edge, and its efforts to provide an engaging, interactive experience should be the envy of all modern museums. Not just for children, the activities encourage the visitor to engage with the making processes, as a further reminder that the museum stands on the site of a once-successful and productive factory.
The exhibition has one, separate room dedicated to explaining the traditional craft of indigo resist-dyed textiles (or kékfestő) which is said to have originated in Saxony and came to Hungary and Austria, later developing into regional styles and used for folk dress. The textiles, in their varying stages of production, hang over artificial stone wells, just as they would in an original dyeing workshop. The printing process is explained with the chance to create your own block prints with stamps and ink. The rest of the exhibition continues in the same thread. You can make printing block patterns using a grid and wooden pegs and there are even table-top looms to try your hand at different weaving patterns.
The Goldberger business boomed, first after the modernisation implemented by Bertold Goldberger (1849-1913) and then under the direction of his son, Leo (1878-1945). This period is reflected in the largest room of the exhibition, with a huge display case of the factory’s textile sample and pattern books. The factory became famous for an artificial silk textile called Bemberg Parisette Rayon and by 1934 was exporting to an international market, that included the UK, Australia, and the USA. This golden age is celebrated by a small, dark room where life-sized, illuminated cutouts of ladies attired in 1930s dress line the walls while jazz music plays in the background and voices talk about life in the thirties.
If you are visiting Budapest, do make time to see this gem of a museum. It not only offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s role in fashion history but an excellent museum experience all round.
(1) ‘Goldberger House’, Researched by Mate Millisits, Open Society Archives, [http://www.osaarchivum.org/about-us/goldberger-house], accessed 29 September 2016
(1) Goldberger Textile Museum’s website: http://www.textilmuzeum.hu/ (only available in Hungarian)
Olivia Gecseg,Costume Society Ambassador; 2016