The Hungarian Historical Society has been working since its inception in 2000 to transform an old school house into a museum honoring the Hungarian culture and people. As of September, they received enough grant money to complete the project.
The society has received several grants, but a grant from the Louisiana Capitol Outlay Program gave it the final amount needed to complete the project.
Society President Alex Kropog said the organization has to follow strict guidelines in order to receive the $175,000 grant.
“This money is not going to fall into a black hole,” he said.
Once the renovations are complete and the museum is up and running, exhibits will feature items Hungarian settlers used in their everyday lives from 1896 to the present, such as lanterns, ice tongs, wash basins, as well as some items from Hungary, like Herend porcelain.
Julia Ourso, a 72-year-old member of the Hungarian Historical Society, plans to loan some items to the museum.
“I am going to put a lantern on loan, which my grandfather and father hung on the side of a horse and buggy drawn wagon that they drove to town in,” Ourso said. “By the time they came home from Hammond, it was getting dark, and that was the light they used to guide them home.”
Royanne Kropog, who is married to Alex Kropog, serves as the treasurer of the Hungarian Historical Society and curator of the museum.
Royanne said before the museum opens its doors, she will take great care to properly label and display the items in exhibit cases.
“We are the largest rural Hungarian settlement in the United States today,” she said. “Somebody has got to do this, and we became that somebody. We’re trying to preserve it the best we can.”
The building itself serves as a historical marker for the Hungarian settlement.
It was constructed in Springfield in 1906 and moved to its present location in Albany in 1927 by oxen. From there, it became a school for children in the settlement, and the Rev. Alexander Bartus turned it into a nursing home in 1945.
From 1976 to 2000, the building fell into disrepair, and the various civic organizations attempted to repair it with little success. The Hungarian Historical Society was formed in 2000, and it decided to transform the building into a museum.
Ourso said preserving the community is something important to her and the society.
“Both my parents were Hungarian, and I grew up on a farm,” Ourso said. “Anything that came about in the community, I participated in. My parents danced in the Harvest Dance, I danced and two of my daughters danced. In this community we try to keep our culture and our history alive.”
Renovations are estimated to be completed sometime next year.
Once the museum is ready to open its doors, it will be open two days per week or by appointment.
For information, call The Hungarian Historical Society at (225) 294-5732 or visit www.hungarianmuseum.com.