Museums from Transylvania between the years 1817-1905


Drd. Gherghina Boda-Ghena


Etymological speaking, the term museum can be find in Greek language, being find again in Latin language by extension.

The museum has its roots in roman-roman antiquity, when it meant as sanctuary of muses, a temple for arts and sciences, then became a place where the philosophers and the scholars met having the role of .a high institution for education and research.

The antiquity gave the museum a different meaning from modern one, the museum refund it self in the mythological sphere. According to antique myths, the nine muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosney had their sanctuary on Helicon mountain, a place called The Muses Valley, where once at four years took place feasts dedicated to them, with famous poetry contests called Muse. Later, the Platoon Academy philosophers and the scholars of Alexandria Library put themselves under the muses protection, the place of their meeting being named museion and from this we have the term museum.

The museum, having a strong connection with philosophy, psychology, philosophical anthropology, and the philosophy of culture and history, and through these with museography as a science of museum, became an institution of collective memory and a social conscience phenomenon.

On one hand, the museum, no matter the space and time, was formed as an institution of collective memory. If with the help of memory, the man keep his individual past, by collective memory the society keep its common past. In this way, the museum became the institution which collected, conserved, amassed and restored the past issues, leaving the cultural inheritance from a generation to another the clear purpose being that not to loose the origins and to make eternal the cultural creation under the space and time.

From another point of view, the museum represents the conscience to which the mankind came about its own cultural activity, about its own value as a culture producer.

Along time, the conscience known an ascendant evolution, from inner conscience to a social one. First, the man had to discover himself, to conscious his valences and potentiality, to explore his own subjective universe, and then to look outside to the others. And this only because in the relationship with others the man fulfilled himself, riched himself, created a new reality, different from that inside him, an objective reality, a social one to which everybody contributed, on one hand, but also he surpassed oneself by new product on the other hand.

Now, the man creates having the value conscience, now the man offer a value to his products and still now he socialized his own creations shearing the joy of creation with others members of society. And because the man became conscious by himself and by his cultural activity he began to institutionalize his cultural products, offering this role to the museum too.

At the same time, the museum is a result of social conscience. Even from its beginnings, the museum was a social phenomenon, having both religious and scientific-artistic character. But along time the museums became specialized, and organized themselves taking into consideration the social needs and requests and, why not, sometimes the fashion.

Museum imposed itself in the society as a cultural phenomenon which institutionalized the nation culture which emphasized the creation efforts of a people, the way in which the man succeeded to humanize the nature, to spiritualize it, the museum, through its functions succeeded to integrated the cultural pieces in the humans conscience and sensibility. During this process the values appeared as the only way to outshine the human servitude against the perishablity as the only way to transcendent nature. 

            Looking out from the time point of view, the contemporary museum it is not nothing else than a stage, as a moment of an evolution in which the human preoccupations had their own evolution and in which the objects were invested successively with a utilitarian value, with esthetical value and then with patrimonial value. The value investment of an object involve a psychological coordinate, that to create a row of the objects, that of taking over in a spiritual way the fact which generates and keep alive the accumulation wish. From this to the wish of collection, meaning the holding together in a single place the objects which answer to the spiritual needs, is only a step. The first collections were more depots objects invested with a certain value but not having the characteristics of a real collection. That is why we may say that the act of objects collection inside the temples had at base their hoarding up which was more connected with the sacred and wealth aspect than with it artistic qualities. The diversity of objects types which were parts of the antique collections revealed not only the artistically reason of the collection but also a scientific one, a prove being the Museion from Alexandria.

            The antiquity is the period of time when appears the activity of values collecting, the real collecting starting with the helenistique time. But the Imperial Age is the big collections era. For the antiquity is characteristic another cultural life aspects meaning the traveling which gave born to the desire to collect, but also the appearance of a very modern idea to create cultural interest centers inside the areas very frequented by the people.

            The hoarding up idea it was the base of all world museums.

            In the Renaissance time appeared the preoccupations for the historical aspects of the objects, now the object being invested with historical, aesthetical and commercial value.

            If at the beginning the medieval collections have a relative reduced gamma of cultural objects (gems, medals, coins, cameos, sculptures, manuscripts), starting with the XVthCentury these have a larger area including antiquities, objects from Byzantine and Flemish contemporary world. The artists were the first great collectors because they saw in the antiquity a model and an inspiration source for their pieces, being follow by the popes and princes.

            The Great Geographical Discoveries offered a larger area to collect by the appearance of some rare objects and with a great value from exotically and unknown worlds, which in the XVthCentury culture gave the inclination to the alchemy, for the strange objects or fabulous things from the new world.

            The Renaissance is the time when the Museum as an institution born. The important thing is that this period of time extended the act of collect from quantity and quality point of view, this characteristic keeping during the next centuries too. A big achievement of this time is the reference of the cultural object to the time or the introducing of time in collector preoccupations, in relation with the antiquity, which did not report the object value to its oldness. This transformation of the cultural object in an historical one under the rule of time drew the idea of its protection.

            The collections created were showed only to the protégé, members of the same medium, artist scientists. The people were on the other side of the line. The inaccessibility of the collections to the middle level of population (scientists, writers, artists who did not have enough power or wealth) gave birth to a hard reaction from them because they felt of these kinds of interdictions. The result of their repeated requests to have access to the forbidden areas was the creation of public libraries, than the creation of museums and public achieves.

            But, no matter the motivation that man had when he started to collect value objects, the important thing is the collecting act itself and also the end of it, meaning the creation of the collections. And this because a first cause of the appearance of the museum it is the evolution of the collected process. The internal dynamic of this process had an evolution in time from a simple accumulation of objects from a specialization on a different fields of activity-archaeology, art, natural sciences, history, ethnography, technique-which had a final result the born of different museums on the whole world.

            The passing by from the collection to the museum is not only the result of a restructuration of the way to collect and to research the material, but also of a deep reference to the society in the spiritual plane confronted by the collective memory fixation. This start from the same need to transpose in an institutional level the conscience to which the mankind had arrived about its own cultural activity and which during the time generated different ways of expression. This long way done by the collection during so many centuries had ended with its institutionalization and with the achieving of the museum statute.

            Starting with the XVth Century, appear the princely museums, the botanical gardens and zoological gardens, curiosity cabinets, the historical museums, the universitarian museums and those technical, then national museums and ethnographical ones and what it is very important now were making the great collections from Italy, Spain, England, France, Germany, Austria and Russia.

            The first state museum it is considerated to be The British Museum, opened at 1759. The appearance of state public museum marqueed the start of the process of museum democratization. Till the its democratization, the museum did not serve the generality, the collections having an aristocratically character, an dilettante one, not systematical, not thematically, having the role to enjoy the owner and the persons closed to him, next it opened to the artists, scientists, for the researching of the collections. Only  the XIXth Century will bring with it the museum democratization and the opening of it to all kind of people.

            The XVIIth and the XVIIIth Century were noticed by a serial of new musegraphical things above the Renaissance concretized in the refinement of the aesthetical taste, the amplification of the collected desire, the quantitative and qualitative increase of the collection, in the appearance of some specialization and the organization of collection tendencies in a most systematical way and taking into consideration of some criteria as the separation of the collections in painting and sculpture galleries, curiosity cabinets, natural sciences collections, ethnographical collections, in the wide open of the collecting area to new fields: history, ethnography, mineralogy, science and technique, in the initiative to show to the public the collections made with a visible educational and cultural purpose, in the appearance of the restoring shops and spaces similar to those inside and for the museums, in the appearance of the first museographer treat and also in the publishing of the illustrated catalogues and collections and museums guides.

            The XIXth Century brought with itself the national museums foundation and the creation of some real system of museums in almost the entirely world states.

            The museums had a strong connection with the exhibitions, universal and national ones, which were an important source of museum, objects, both activities influencing and inner conditioning each other. The exhibitions had a big influence on the museal program. Saw as international markets the exhibitions had their contribution at the offer extending and diversification by the audience, underlining the utility of the showing the technical and artistic object as a large social preoccupation, which determinated to exceed the commercial area.

            Inside the provincial towns the exhibitions were like alternatives to museums by showing very different objects (cars, tools and equipments, weapons, furniture, house objects, ferronerrie, pottery, art craft etc.), which offered new information’s and which, for a short time, received the museum object characteristics

The exhibitions gave to the museums a social importance unprecedented by attracting a huge number of visitors. The organization of the exhibitioner space made a familiar atmosphere, different of the museum austere one, where the visitors felt good, received new informations and they had fun.

Another merit of the exhibition was to make thinner the breach between the science and art, proving that those, by their utility, were a preoccupation for entirely society and more they contributed to the considerable widening of the concept of culture.

The exhibition offered vanguard models for the museum architecture as well as solutions for new spaces. The Crystal Palace from London was a reference moment in modern history of architecture and one of the museal space archetype as well, the huge glass house of Paxton being a exposition type taking then by the Glass Palace of Voit in Munich, by the building made with the occasion of exhibition in Paris, etc.

The universal exhibitions introduced a symbolic part, starting with The Eiffel Tower, going with the Celeste Globe made by Galeron for the 1900 exhibition in Paris and till the atomically structure becoming a symbol for Bruxelles from the middle of XXth Century. Thus, the exhibitions offered the possibility of an architectural speech in a symbolic way, which stayed unknown for museum. Also, the educative function of museum was found in this kind of exhibitions. Their educative part had manifested by the fact that thousand of people, from different cultural circles, became familiar, year-by-year, with handicraft objects, industrial products and art craft of a big value. This remarkable achievement was over the efforts done in this way by the education system or by the museum. Maybe that is why the exhibitions organizer could be considered as great teachers as well. The idea to mix together the education and entertainment spread starting with the second half of the XIXthCentury.

By all of these, the exhibitions were a model for museum concerning the way of exposition and the opening to the public.

 All these exhibitioner manifestations in Europe, and not only, reflected perfectly the transformations which the humanity felt in those times and which meant the opening to an other human activity sphere, that of showing the most important human achievements at a national and international level, a source of publicity for the national; achievements and the including of these in world patrimony. Also, they created a scenic frame in which all the nations met and in which the relations ships between people became more tide.

Concerning the national exhibitions of Astra, we may underline the fact that they were part of the European exhibitioner movement which known a large development during the XIXthCentury. Event they did not have the European level, they had a great importance because a minority from the Empire, which had not success on the political and national way and often stroke up by the leading circles by its own ethnicity, organized them. By these exhibitions, Astra tried to give the Romanian nation the dignity, which its historical past conferred it, but also to include it among the Austro-Hungarian Empire nations with political rights. From this point of view, the Astra exhibitions were the mirror of the Romanian people ethnicity.

By its way of organization, by the seriousity of the Regulament and the Program made after an European model, by the way of exposition and by the large number of the exponents and by the quality of these, Astra wanted to prove that the place of Romanian nation is beside the other nations from the Empire, despite the efforts of the leading circles to undermine the economical and political development of Romanians, and that the power of creation and the skill of this people are not under the other nations, the fact that Romanian people has a high cultural and artistically  traditions materialized in things made with a excellent artistically  craftsmanship.

The role of these national exhibitions was that to show the level at which the Romanian artistically and economical development achieved, to acquire the museal pieces, to make stronger the cohesion of Romanian people, to rise up the national conscience to new standards and to prove the national unity of all Romanians, no matter the part of Carpathian they lived.

The museums did arise in a cultural frame characterized by a great effervescence of human spirit, in the spiritual atmosphere of Humanism, Enlightement   and the appearance of Romantism with its all suite of national and cultural consequences. Now are coming a lot of cultural associations and museum societies, Transylvania framing perfectly in the European museal movement, which started at the beginning of XIXth Century.

The museums from Transylvania had as predecessor the museums from schools and the private collections. Germs of collecting existent even in XVth Century when under the influence of Humanism and Renaissance appeared all kind of collectors. To the private collections added in time those from gymnasiums, the press having an important role by the appeals published concerning the museums and also the strong activity of the cultural associations and societies which, no matter their nationality, fought for the same purpose: the making of the museums.

Generally speaking, the museums from Transylvania in the XIXth Century were museums of cultural history. Between 1817 and 1905, in Transylvania was a single central provincial museum, The History Museum from Cluj, three national museums (Brukenthal museum from Sibiu, of Transylvanian Saxons, The Museum from Sf. Gheorghe, of the Szecklers, and The Astra Museum from Sibiu, of the Romanians) and much more county museums and local ones having an historical, ethnographical, industrial character and those of natural sciences.

Together with the Transylvanian objects, inside of some museums were also very valuable objects even art masterpieces and universal culture masterpieces.

A strong problem of the museums from Transylvania was the lack of buildings good for the role and the purpose of the museum, the museal collection being exposed in private houses, gymnasiums, offices fact which gave them more a character of depots that a character of exhibitions opened to the public.

In spite these, the museal movement from Transylvania had progressed all the time, developed a prolific exhibitioner, scientifically and publicistic activity. In spite the financial difficulties, almost the whole museums had their own paper, a library with a quite rich book and revues patrimony together with these being numerous belletristic pieces. These museums library had been frequented not only by the specialists but also by the public from all social categories a fact, which gave them a strong educational and formatting role, a social wide open.

Even the museal activity from Transylvania was not at the same level with that from Europe, mainly concerning the buildings, the furniture and the way of exposition, it is remarquable the perseverance and the passion of those implied in this activity, their measures creating the base of a real museums system which lodges valuable testimonies of the national-cultural inheritance of all the nationalities from these areas. It has to be admired the collaboration between all of those implied in the museal movement from Transylvania, their common efforts to support the same cause, beyond the any kind of ethnical difference.

The museum enriched all the time the national life, creating a living connection between the old ages and maybe it is the only place where the national history is perpetuated. In the same time the museum is that efficient way in which the past coming in the present conscience and prefigure the future. It is not only a past depot, but is the most fertile terrain and most comprehensive of new forms of life and permanent creations. The museum is the collective and cultural memory institution of a human society being at different levels of its development. That is why the museum is in request to be created in the way of dynamic value creation, which co-operate to define the characteristic of this people, of its national conscience.