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Research and Museum History of Aquincum

Research and Museum History of Aquincum from 1778

1778: An Óbuda winegrower discovers the remains of Roman underfloor heating (hypocaustum) while digging pits. The origin and role of the remains is recognised by university librarian István Schönvisner, who connects them with the town of Aquincum.

1796: The first ruins of the Contra Aquincum fort are discovered in the courtyard of the Piarist monastery in the Pest city centre.

1815: Jakab Göttersdorfer discovers Roman walls (the ruins of Transaquincum) while ploughing his fields by the river Rákos.

1820: The father of the monarch visits the Roman ruins of Óbuda and declares “Behold, here is the Hungarian Pompeii and Herculaneum!”

1820s: The prefect of Óbuda carries out “excavations” in Papföld (where the current Aquincum Museum is located) exploring and reburying the ruins of the large public baths.

1860s: Gusztáv Zsigmondy surveys the visible remains of the Transaquincum fort and the “thermae” (the baths of the governor’s palace) on modern-day Óbuda Island.

1867: At the Paris World Fair, the archaeological exhibition of the Hungarian pavilion, organised by Flóris Rómer, includes finds from Aquincum.

1869: Crown Prince Rudolf visits the Roman ruins of Aquincum.

1876: The 8th International Congress of Anthropology and Archaeology visits the ruins of Aquincum.

1878: The Budapest city council passes a decree protecting the still visible ruins in Óbuda.

1880: A committee of six is established to determine the site of regular excavations.

1880: Excavations begin under the leadership of Károly Torma, József Hampel, and Sándor Gömöri Havas.

1881: Torma excavates the entire surface of the Civil Town’s amphitheatre.

1885: The finds from the Aquincum excavations, too, are presented at the National Fair.

1888: Bálint Kuzsinszky joins the excavations and later takes over leadership from Torma.

1889: The first issue of Budapest Antiquities (Budapest Régiségei) is published.

1889: The first Aquincum exhibition opens in the Krempl mill.

1894: On 10 May, the Aquincum Museum opens its doors to the general public.

1896: For the Millennium, and in order to alleviate the lack of space, two wings are attached to the original museum building. This ground plan has not changed since.

1902: The Lapidarium, housing the stone collection, is constructed behind the museum building.

1904: The Lapidarum is expanded.

1921: Lajos Nagy joins the excavations in Aquincum.

1928: The Lapidarum is expanded again.

1931: Lajos Nagy excavates the firemen’s headquarters in the Civil Town, and discovers, among others, the remains of the Aquincum organ.

1932: Heritage conservation work on the cella trichora – excavated between 1927 and 1930 – is completed.

1936: The Budapest Archaeological Institute in established under Lajos Nagy.

1936: A subterranean museum is established on the site of Contra Aquincum (excavated between 1932 and 1936).

1938: Following the death of Kuzsinszky, Lajos Nagy takes over leadership of the museum, in which he is assisted by János Szilágyi. In the leadership of the Budapest Archaeological Institute, he is assisted by Tibor Nagy.

1941: Heritage conservation work on the Military Town’s amphitheatre – excavated continuously since 1925 – is completed.

1941: Plans are made for the expansion of the Aquincum Museum, but the Second World War prevents their implementation.

1945: In air strikes targeting the Óbuda gasworks during the Second World War, 40% of the museum building is damaged and the Archaeological park receives 12 hits. Two-fifths of the artefacts – stored in part at the Károlyi Palace – are destroyed.

1947: The first exhibition since the war, “The Past of Budapest”, opens at the Károlyi Palace.

1948: The first permanent exhibition of the Aquincum Museum since the war opens in October.

1952: Excavations begin on the Hajógyári (Shipyard) Island, on the site of the governor’s palace.

1954: The Military Town Museum opens.

1961: The ruins of the cella trichora are conserved again.

1963: Conservation work begins on the ruins in the area of the Aquincum Museum.

1964: The expanded Baths Museum reopens.

1966: With the co-operation of Hungarian and foreign architecture students the Interstudex excavations begin in the western, hitherto unexcavated, part of the Civil Town.

1967: The Hercules Villa opens.

1973: Conservation work is concluded at the Aquincum Museum; 16 buildings are conserved.

1970s-1980s: Continuous excavations on the sites of the Aquincum legionary fortress and Military Town, and conservation work to display the fortress’s buildings and fortifications.

1984: The Baths Museum is further expanded.

1987: Due to maintenance issues, the Baths Museum, Hercules Villa, Military Town Museum, and Contra Aquincum are closed.

1989: The staff of the Department of Ancient History move from the Károlyi Palace to the old office building of the Aquincum Museum.

1991: The buildings and site of the former MHSZ are added to the southern part of the Aquincum Museum Archaeological park.

1994: Smaller reconstruction works begin in order to modernise the museum entrance. The transformation of the new areas (former MHSZ) into storage facilities and a conservation workshop begins.      
The Hercules Villa reopens.

1995-1996: Soil replacement works in the area in front of the Aquincum Museum’s eastern stone collection.

1995-1998: Landscaping work in front of the eastern stone collection – the construction of the open-air theatre and further landscaping in the southern part of the Archaeological park.

1998: Remaining staff, collections, and stores are temporary relocated from the Károlyi Palace to the Gasworks Clock House and Community Centre.

1999: The Baths Museum reopens.

2000: On 21 November the first phase of the expansion of the Aquincum Museum – the office and storage building – is opened, providing the museum with a temporary exhibition hall, open throughout the year.

2000-2003: Conservation work on a number of sites in the southern part of the Archaeological park (conservation and control excavation: the Symphorus mithraeum, baths of the deversorium) with the support of the NÖP programmes.

2003-2004: The internal reconstruction of the conservation workshop in the former MHSZ building is completed and its façade is partially renovated. The damaged terracotta information boards are replaced in the Archaeological park.

2005: New information boards and two chronoscopes are placed in the Archaeological park.

2007: The Office of the Mayor of Budapest grants the former substation of the ELMŰ electricity company to the Aquincum Museum.

2010: The Pannonia Province Programme begins within the framework of the New Széchenyi Plan, supported by the European Union.

2012: On 15 June the new tourist attractions – e.g. House of the Painter, Virtual Experience Area, Mythological Playground – of the Pannonia Province Programme are opened, which were completed with the support of the European Union and co-sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund.

Prominent researchers of Aquincum and former colleagues of the Aquincum Museum:
Schönwiesner István, Rómer Flóris Ferenc, Torma Károly, Hampel József, Gömöri Havas Sándor, Kuzsinszky Bálint, Nagy Lajos, Nagy Tibor, Szilágyi János, Schauschek János, Ürögdi György, Wellner István, Márity Erzsébet, Kővágó Péterné Szentirmai Katalin, Balogh Andrea