1950s. Photo: Fortepan, Endre Baráth

Everyday life in uniform in a children’s home of the Hungarian State Railways Company

Quiet hours, Indian camps, a museum of the workers’ movement, teenagers in uniforms saluting, and orphans trying out cameras. The Children’s Home of the Hungarian State Railways Company (Magyar Államvasutak, MÁV) in Kőszeg was both physically and figuratively very close to the “school at the frontier” of the most influential novel of 20th-century Hungarian literature written by Géza Ottlik [English edition: Géza Ottlik, School at the Frontier, trans. Kathleen Szasz (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966)].

The resemblance was probably clear back in the socialist era too, though the real-life version must have been at its best a bit warmer and homier than the one, only a few hundred metres away, that served as the model for the novel. Thanks to one of the former caregivers, Endre Baráth, the photographs recounting the history of the orphanage through decades have now entered the public domain.

The above is the introduction to the latest article in the English-language blog by the Fortepan online repository of Hungarian photographs, and the full text with many more photos can be seen here.

The Fortepan digital archive collects and shares Hungarian photographs taken from 1900 to 1990, and currently contains 156,000 pictures. The collection, which does not exist in physical form, was launched in 2010. The archive comes under a Creative Commons licence and the richly illustrated series of articles is free for anyone to use, with due credit.

Children from Kőszeg on an excursion to Cák. Photo – Fortepan, Endre Baráth

Fortepan now has an English edition of its weekly blog Heti Fortepan. The latter, in Hungarian, was launched in 2020 in professional partnership with the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center. The English-language Weekly Fortepan will be a selection of the Heti Fortepan series. Every second Wednesday morning an article in English is being published at hetifortepan.capacenter.hu/en. The earlier articles can also be seen at this link.

The archive, which is mainly supported by donations, is run by 10-15 editors working on a voluntary basis, and they try to decipher the content of the images on the FortePan megfejtések forum.

Photo: Fortepan – Endre Baráth

The collection is based on 5000 images collected since the 1980s from Budapest junk clearances. Over the past decade more than 700 donors have offered their photographs to the archive. At first it was mainly families but later photo documentation from companies and professional photographers also found their way onto Fortepan.

Fortepan volunteers simply digitise the images and return them to the donors. Fortepan is an edited archive, and about a third of the images received are uploaded, with editor Miklós Tamási looking for the “meaningful” ones.

Photo: Fortepan – Endre Baráth

The archive is named after the Fortepan negative film produced by the former Forte factory in Vác, which was very popular in Hungary. The blog is edited by Tamási and István Virágvölgyi, curator of the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center.

If you have a family photo to share with Fortepan, please contact fortepan@gmail.com

Photo: Fortepan – Endre Baráth


Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center

Nagymező utca 8, District VI, Budapest

Website: https://capacenter.hu/en/

Email: info@capacenter.hu

Tel.: (06-1) 413-1310

Leave a Reply