Our Twentieth Century—a new website (www.visszaemlekezesek.hu) development project by the 1956 Institute’s Oral History Archive, 2012-2014

The project was inspired by personal experiences. Most members of today's middle and younger generations know little of their parents’ and grandparents’ lives and the conditions they lived in under the Soviet-type system or earlier. The Oral History Archive contains much information on this, recorded in about 1000 life interviews. For many of us it was an inspiration to read Orlando Figes’s monumental work The Whisperers—Private Life in Stalin’s Russia (London, 2007). Figes made hundreds of interviews and then reconstructed the life courses of a dozen extended families, some of them linked, to build up a vast tableau of daily life in Stalin’s Soviet Union.
    Our Twentieth Century selected from the interviews in the Oral History Archive. We chose some 20 interviews in 2010 displaying 20 different destinies. These texts were edited into small excerpts, essentially short descriptions and sometimes only single sentences. We created two “label clusters”, one on 20th century Hungarian history and one on the typical stages and turning points in individual lives. These constructions of personal memories can be traced along individual life paths and destinies. The process of history becomes apparent in the narrative of individuals. But it is also possible to view single events and historical processes and occurrences, where various accounts and viewpoints appear about the same thing.
    We would like to present the points of conjunction between overall history and personal history, and not just in texts. Those reminiscing often make available pictorial remembrances and personal documents as well, which are treated as constituents of equal rank. We will also choose for these pictures from the Institute’s database of photo documents as instances of historical events going on in the background. We are also thinking of augmenting the short texts and pictures with excerpts from Hungarian documentary films, and it will of course be possible to hear the interviewee’s voice, and so on. As an auxiliary we could offer the biographies of the interviewees, bibliographical data on the literature on specific questions (scientific, popular and literary), filmographies, dictionary entries for concepts mentioned in the reminiscences, recommended links, etc. We hope this content will be of use in education. Chances will be provided for feedback from users with their own proposals or for adding other lives.
    This website development represents a continuation of the 1956 Institute’s work so far, and will be aimed primarily at regular computer users. We envisage making a version also for brand new mobile applications whose users are typically members of the youngest generations with a different cultural background and system of expectations. Thus for them and for the applications they favor – ebook, iPad, iPhone, android phones – we would adapt the content development by means of short memory texts, images (photos) in order to convey the original type of message.
    In the first stage of sub-programme 2.4 we would compile the contextual memories (select and edit memory texts, assemble and scan pictures and personal documents, select films, compile bibliographies, compose explanatory entries, etc.) In the second stage the framework system and demo version would be prepared. After discussing and testing, this would be finalized and additional personal lives would be added continually. In this stage we would also prepare the variant for mobile applications.