New editor-in-chief in charge at MúzeumCafé
It has been announced recently that Gábor Martos, the head of the prestigious Hungarian museum journal, MúzeumCafé, is stepping down. Meet the woman who will take the steering wheel for the coming years.
MúzeumCafé is the largest printed museum journal in Hungary with an English language supplement. Under Mr Martos’s management it won several international design awards. Besides the layout and the content, the list of extra activities is also impressive: regular round table discussions about the hot topics of the field, awarding the most progressive Hungarian museum projects every year, and issuing a book series. To celebrate the 50th issue of the magazine an exhibition opened in the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre in Budapest on 14 December 2015. This offered the opportunity for the editorial board to announce the new editor-in-chief, Emőke Gréczi.
The question seems self-evident in the case of a well-established and well-known journal: why is the change now?
In fact, it’s not exactly now, we started to work on Mr. Martos’s replacement a year ago when he announced his retirement after the 50th issue. My appointment was a fairly quick decision on behalf of the editorial board. We also knew that this change would bring along the opportunity to redesign the journal since during the daily work it had become clear that we had grown beyond the scope we had set for ourselves. However, Gábor is going to stay with us, he will be in charge of the live MúzeumCafé programs.
You have been one of the editors of MúzeumCafé for years, you must have very clear ideas of what magazine you would like to see and offer to the readers.
It sounds like a cliché, but today the meaning of the word museum is not a building or a collection, but any place which offers the chance to remember something. I would like to move in this direction, and we have already referred to this shift, for example, with articles like the one on urban walks or with this new exhibition in the Robert Capa Centre, in which the first photo depicts the interior of the railway station of a small Slovakian town, Rozsnyó (Rožňava). Another important point is that, in the present, we are archiving the operation of a professional field, that of museology, for the future, so despite the bi-monthly issues, we try to get everywhere where something interesting happens. We have to create a journal from which fifty years later, anyone can see what this profession was like 50 years earlier. The issues will focus more on single topics, which means much bigger space for the leading theme of the month, which hopefully will reinforce the scientific character of the journal. In the next issue this topic will be the historical families and their heritage, but certainly we will cover some other topics too in the same issue.
What other changes is all this going to entail?
Our art director, Péter Salát Zalán, likes to stay ahead of trends, so he was very keen to reshape the design along with the content changes. His way of thinking translates into shapes and graphics which work very well with designers all over the world. Without going into detail, I can tell you that the journal is going to be a little smaller, but thicker, a bit more book-like, but we are definitely not going to reduce the number of photos, which is one of the strengths of the journal. We have also found a new font family, which is easier and more comfortable to read. Our website is also being constructed, however, it will be functioning as an archive for the past issues, and is not going to be updated on a daily basis. We are going to keep our blog too, and start our topical city walks, of course, related to museums. We also want to take this exhibition to other towns, so we have quite a few ideas now.
When is the first new issue due?
The very first issue back in 2007 came out in October, there was no particular reason for that, they could just finish it by then, but since then it has kept causing problems that the numbering of the volumes did not coincide with the calendar years. And we think that once a lot of things are changing, we should put this right too. So the next issue is due in March 2016. Consequently there will only be 5 issues this year, but we already have some plans to compensate our subscribers.
You have been publishing in MúzemCafé for years now. You have made quite a few interviews with those prominent figures of this field who belong to the elderly generations, and you also analysed how museums were established and how they have changed during the decades. When did you start thinking about this historical perspective of museums?
I graduated as a sociologist, and I am primarily interested in social-history. I have been an author here for five years and one of the editors for four and an half. I have been visiting museums and I have realised that many things that worked well years or decades ago, do not work today. I am curious how this museum structure, which seems to be breaking up now, was created. Who built up these collections, the public collection system itself and how? What kinds of networks, power rivalries and professional preferences were at play? Did professional ambitions and creativity have space in this game, and if yes, how much? Or did everything depend on connections? I talked to people who were once leaders and could take their chance and without whom - and I’m not being poignant here - there would be no reasonable exhibitions in the country-side today, and no structures and values to build exhibitions on here in Budapest. The interviewees are independent today, which is a guarantee for an unbiased view. It is surprising but understandable that all of them are nostalgic about the socialist era, and not only because that was their professional heyday and they were young too, but also because everything was predictable, and planning was much easier for them than for those managing the museums today. I would like to publish these interviews in a book, partly because there are so many brilliant photos which could not be published in MúzeumCafé due to the limited space in any print edition.