The collection of arms and seals, which was inherited from the “collection of antiquities” of the grammar school, formed primarily the corpus of the collection. No one knows exactly to what extent the material of the “collection of antiquities” contributed to the Museum later on and, for lack of existing inventories, what amount and which sort of materials were collected by István Halis from 1913 onwards and later by the Piarist teachers who were appointed museum attendants. The complete material of the Museum was preserved and presented, more and more jam-packed, in 4 rooms of the grammar school opening onto the yard.
The objects, which remained from the collection that had been devastated during World War II, were sorted by Edit Kerecsényi according to specific groups after the nationalization of the Museum. She created the collection of objects related to local history from the collection of arms, which was inherited from the predecessors, by separating it from the ethnographic collection and completing it with some valuable relics of the guilds.
In the 1960s, the number of objects increased tenfold as a result of systematic collecting. A significant group of relics of the industrial past was formed; about two thousand tools and workshop equipment were received as a bestowment or bought from craftsmen from Kanizsa. These objects came from the workshops of a boot-maker, shoemaker, blacksmith, rope-maker, sieve-maker, cooper, tinsmith, needlework stencil maker, hat-maker, confectioner and other workshops.
The collection is extremely rich in relics from the turn of the century; a significant number of pieces of furniture, interior design pieces, articles of daily use, toys, household textiles and articles of clothing as well as an ample amount of objects and bequests, which were donated by renowned families and citizens of Kanizsa, are preserved.
Currently, more than 7,000 objects are kept on record.
The fine arts
The corpus of the collection dates back to the time before 1945 and contains in particular engravings which are related to the castle of Kanizsa as well as the paintings of some local artists. The intention to set up a permanent Municipal Picture Gallery became more pronounced in the second half of the 1960s. With this end in view, enrichment of the collection started through purchases from several central and local sources as well as donations.
Contingency was certainly implied in these opportune acquisitions. Nevertheless, the collection could be enriched in this manner through a great number of excellent works of art by Hungarian artists such as Gyula Benczúr, Bertalan Székely, József Egry, Lajos Gulácsy, Jenő Barcsay, etc. It was then that important provincial Baroque wood carvings were also included in the collection of the Museum. It also adds considerably to the worth of the collection that several artists, who were born in Nagykanizsa and moved later to other places or could be linked to the town, donated their works of art presenting their oeuvre to Kanizsa, e.g. András Ősze, Elizabeth Sass Brunner, and Elizabeth Brunner.
Currently, there are 960 inventoried works of art included in the collection.
The corpus of the special library is represented by three fields of research, i.e. ethnographic, archaeological and historical science, along with the associated encyclopaedia, comparative literature, and a collection of journals. Prints, which were published locally, and the school reports and almanacs of schools of Nagykanizsa are especially worth mentioning. The book stock related to ethnography comes close to 3,000 volumes; with an abundant scientific literature dealing with material ethnography standing out. The majority of the works elaborate on the topics vernacular architecture, toys, homespun, embroideries, folk art, national costumes, folk music, folk customs and various folk handicrafts such as weavers, potters, comb-makers, boot-makers, furriers, and coopers.
The literature on the subject of archaeology comes close to 1,500 volumes. The works offer a survey of prehistoric, ancient and mediaeval archaeology in the Carpathian Basin alike. The works dealing with the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age – which works were published in the surrounding countries – stand pre-eminent among the others. Our specialist books on the subject of historical science cover the whole of the Hungarian and universal history, from the prehistoric age to the modern era. There is also an abundant literature relating to the allied and auxiliary sciences of historical science such as numismatics, heraldry, science of deciphering ancient documents, philosophy, statistics, sociology, etc. The majority of the works deal with the modern era. The large amount of literature on the subject of local history and the products of printing offices of Nagykanizsa from the 19th and 20th centuries – of the printing houses of Markbreiter, József Wajdits and Fülöp Fischel, the Gutenberg Printing House, and Zalai Printing House PLC, etc. – are attached great importance to within this part of the collection.
The books and articles written on the subject of local history by István Halis, Mór Hoffmann and Gyula Makoviczky, municipal ordinances and the by-laws and other sophisticated literary publications of associations of Nagykanizsa can be found here.
As for research in the field of local history, a high value is set within our collection of journals on the Zalai Repertory, which has been published by the County Archives since 1974, and the Museum of Zala and Little Monographs on Zala which have been published serially by the Directorate of Museums of Zala.
The collection of copperplates
Alfréd Grünhut was a wealthy corn merchant and banker who lived in Nagykanizsa at the beginning of the 20th century. At the same time, he was a renowned arts collector in town. The reporter of Zala gave an account of the visit he paid to him in 1912 as follows: “hundreds upon hundreds of battle scenes, a number of old weapons and a whole series of century-old portraits appear in sight… A whole swarm of Hungarian coins marches up in front of us…” The writer of the article suggests the town establishes a museum based on the antiquities and treasures of Grünhut. The famous collection of copperplates and coins, which was donated by Grünhut and bought from him, respectively, enriched from 1919-20 onwards the collection of the municipal museum and library, that had been set up based on the collection of antiquities of the grammar school, and was led by István Halis.
This collection of copperplates formed – in addition to the paintings of some local artists – the corpus of the fine arts collection which had been detached from other collections at György Thúry Museum in 1955. The collection comprises copperplates on the subject of history, mainly from the 17th century relating to the castle of Kanizsa, and some aquarelles and lithographs which were made in the 19th century based on the model of the foregoing.
The ethnographic collection
The small ethnographic collection, which had been created by the Piarist teachers, was destroyed during the war years. The ethnographer Imre Szentmihályi was the first director who was appointed after the nationalization. Yet, he just started his work when he was transferred to Zalaegerszeg. He was followed by Edit Kerecsényi in 1950 who was also an ethnographer. She was at that time in charge of the regions of collection of Kanizsa and Letenye districts, plus Csurgó district until 1962. In these 12 years wide-ranging exploratory work was going on in the following places, by the help of enthusiastic researchers of local history, in almost every field of ethnography. So research was done for instance into the national costumes, whitework embroidery and farming in Kiskomárom-Galambok and Nemespátró-Csurgó as well as their neighbourhood, the ethnographic features of Croatian villages along the Mura River, food-gathering and hunting in places especially rich in forests and the most important handicrafts, particularly pottery and weaving.
The collection, which comprises currently 14,906 pieces, encompasses almost the entire field of ethnography. The collection covering costumes, homespun, handicrafts and folk traditions is the most abundant one. Yet, engraved and carved pieces from the bequest of shepherds of the one-time huge manors made by using the so-called “Spanish” wax inlay technique – one more beautiful than the other – are also preserved.
The numismatic collection
The significant numismatic collection of the banker Alfréd Grünhut was purchased by the municipality of Nagykanizsa in 1922. The collection was handed over to the Museum by the Town Council in 1964. This collection of some 4,000 pieces has made our numismatic material pre-eminent which has developed into one of the most important collections in Transdanubia. The Grünhut material contains coins and commemorative medals. The former embrace – and this is the strength of the collection – a long era. One can find Greek and Roman coins as well as medieval and modern period coins from Hungary in the collection. It is especially worth mentioning that the series of coins from the age of the Arpads and the time of kings of different houses are almost complete. The coins of the princes of Transylvania are also considered rarities.
Since then, the collection has primarily been enriched with coin finds which have almost completed the medieval and modern period section, e.g. Kerkaszentkirály, Őrtilos, Becsehely, Rigyác, and Letenye. Besides, the material has also developed through donation, e.g. by the Toronto resident János Molnár, the Nagykanizsa group of the Hungarian Numismatic Society, and the Town Embellishment Association.
Currently, the collection contains 9,100 pieces.
The archaeological collection
Archaeological explorations in the town and its neighbourhood look back upon a short period of time. The first experiment took place in 1935-38 when Gyula Makoviczky intended to excavate and present the castle of Kanizsa. His plan could not be realized.
The most important rescue excavation was probably led by István Méri from the Hungarian National Museum in 1953-58. He wanted to find out as much as he could about the castle of Kanizsa which was threatened by the factory expansions. Edit Kerecsényi unearthed a 9th-century graveyard in Letenye in 1958, while Nándor Parádi excavated a round church at the site Letenye-Szentkeresztdomb. Nándor Kalicz saved in the same place relics from the prehistoric age. The rescue excavation by Róbert Müller in Pogányszentpéter is also worth mentioning. The first archaeologist – László Horváth – came to the museum in 1975. Previously he had unearthed as a museologist from Keszthely– during his holiday – the Celtic and Roman graveyard in Magyarszerdahely. Initially, he toured the collecting area of the museum, i.e. Southern Zala, and took a survey of the archaeological sites. He found about half a thousand of sites belonging to different eras. He carried out rescue and planned excavations at almost 60 of these sites over the last few decades. Besides him, several archaeologists worked in our area, all of them unearthing sites in accordance with their own fields of research. The excavations at Little Balaton, which took 10 years, and the micro-regional explorations in the neighbourhood of Hahót also took place in this collecting area and enriched the collection of the museum.
The most important excavations were as follows: Nándor Kalicz at the sites Nagykanizsa-Sánc, Becsehely (Copper Age, the Neolithic), László Horváth at the sites Miklósfa (Celtic graveyard), Nagykanizsa-Billa (Copper Age), Nagykanizsa-Inkey kápolna (Copper Age/Roman era), Nagykanizsa- Katonatemető,- Alsóerdő,- Felsőerdő, Nagyrécse, Gelsesziget (Roman tumuli), Nagykanizsa- Bilkei- dűlő (Late Bronze Age), Sormás, Újudvar, Hosszúvölgy (Roman era), Kiskanizsa (Celtic), Palin (the Neolithic), Magyarszerdahely (Celtic and Roman) and László Vándor at the sites Újudvar, Romlott vár, Bajcsa, Nagykanizsa-Tungsram (Middle Ages).
Preventive archaeological excavations of the motorways M7 and M70 started in August 1999. They have further enriched the collection through a huge amount of finds.
The old corpus of the museum comprises for the most part ancient flint implements from unknown sites. Currently, the number of inventoried archaeological objects comes to 48,000.
The collection of historical documents
The basis of the collection was created by Lajos Bátorfi, the editor of Zalai Gazette, in 1885 when he donated 87 various old documents and significant manuscripts in order to complete the numismatic collection of more than thousand pieces the “collection of antiquities” of the Piarist Grammar School contained at that time. István Halis, who was first appointed librarian and museum attendant in 1913, then the Piarist teachers looked after and enriched the collection.
The municipality of Kanizsa handed over a part of the museum pieces from the times prior to 1850 – which had been kept at the Municipal Archives – to the Museum in 1939.
The collection suffered a serious loss in the last days of World War II; the German, then the Bulgarian, troops burned up documents and books in large numbers.
Scholarly processing of the material and taking an inventory thereof took place in the 1950s. The group of the handwritten books, minutes of council meetings, documents of the guilds, agreements, written pleadings as well as manuscripts and printed papers from 1848-49 in existence – which are considered valuable with respect to the history of the town – has represented the most valuable core of the collection ever since.
The collection has significantly been enriched, mainly through family donations, since the 1970s. Several thousand photographs – townscape, family photos – from the period between the 1870s and the 1950s, taken by renowned photographers from Kanizsa, as well as a large number of postcards from the turn of the century, depicting Kanizsa and various places in Greater Hungary, are preserved.
The group of placards and small printed matters (invitation cards) from the beginning of the century almost to date is significant. The collection contains – in addition to the groups of documents of families, schools and societies from Kanizsa – a large number of relics from World War I and II and almost thousand documents relating to railway history.
Currently, more than 19,000 documents are kept under 7,229 items on record.
Bequest of István Z. Soós: 767 pieces of paintings, illustrations, and drawings.
Bequest of Elizabeth Sass Brunner and Elizabeth Brunner: more than 900 paintings, personal items, clothes, books, postcards, and photos.