The first large-scale permanent exhibition, Esszencia (Essence), was created to celebrate the 220th anniversary of the founding of the National Széchényi Library of Hungary in 2022. Paying homage to the founder, Count Ferenc Széchényi, and recalling the historical antecedents of the Corvina Library, the permanent exhibition presents the complexity and layering of the more than ten million documents in the library, and representing the full range of the written Hungarian cultural heritage.
On the opening, Director General Dávid Rózsa explained in his speech what defines the 220-year-old library and its role in preserving and strengthening national identity. As an intellectual entity, the national library’s main task is to make cultural treasures accessible and to collect the corvinas scattered around the world. It is a major achievement that about half of the Corvinas are now in the possession of the national library. This shows that the National Széchényi Library is alive, thriving, serving, renewing and not forgetting its roots. It is building its future, looking back 220 years. The permanent exhibition reveals a special world that is always worth reliving.
Katalin Novák, President of the Republic, delivered a keynote speech, which was interpreted for the audience by Presidential Advisor Katalin Victor, on the concept of essence and heritage. She stressed the role of statesmen and stateswomen, who “are distinguished from leaders by the fact that they do not renounce essence even when the spirit of the times rewards the diluted. They build even when survival is an achievement”.
The National Széchényi Library has a very important role to play in strengthening and building the nation, and in transmitting culture, “opening its doors wide even in the current difficult situation, but not content with this, it looks forward while also looking backwards, to where we come from, where we are inspired, where the essence is preserved.”
Dr. Péter Hoppál, Minister of State for Culture of the Ministry of Culture and Innovation, drew attention in his speech to the library’s digitisation activities, among other things. Our libraries not only play a vital role in preserving the written treasures of our national culture, but are also research centres. He stressed that the aim of the cultural governance strategy is to make culture accessible to all. The country’s 3,900 library service points play a major role in this, not only by promoting reading but also by building cultural communities. He also underlined the vital role of libraries in reducing functional illiteracy and promoting mental health. The National Széchényi Library is a depository of cultural innovation, as the focus on digital content is innovation itself. The Digitisation Centre is the largest digitisation workshop in Central Europe, already producing more than 1 million pages of digital content every month.
Furthermore, on the occasion of the 220th anniversary of its founding, the National Széchényi Library of Hungary received numerous kind congratulations from its friends and partners all over Europe. In addition to the congratulatory video by IFLA President Ms. Barbara Lison, the Director General of 17 national libraries contributed to the jubilee celebrations by expressing their best wishes to the National Széchényi Library.
The videos will be available on the website of the NSZL (https://www.oszk.hu/en).