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Zsuzsi and Andris, a Székely Barbie and Ken
Zsuzsi and Andris, a Székely Barbie and Ken

On the third day of our trip to Erdély we arrived at Kézdivásárhely, in Kovászna County.

We decided that instead of sitting down for lunch, we wanted to see the Céhtörténeti Múzeum (Guild History Museum). Kézdivásárhely and the region around the city is extremely rich in historical handcrafts.  Sometimes Kézdivásárhely is called the “City of Craftsmen”.  Gábor Áron had his cannon foundry during the 1848-1849 Revolution on the property where the museum is located.

The Museum opened in 1969, the 120th anniversary of the death of Gábor Áron.  Soon after the opening it was discovered that the craftsmen’s families had many more memorabilia, therefore Incze László, history teacher, was entrusted with further developing the Museum.  The current Museum was opened on March 3rd, 1972.  Part of the craft museum is the Zsuzsi and Andris Baba Múzeum”   (Zsuzsi and Andris Doll Museum), where every area of Transylvania is represented.

A competition was advertised in the “Jó Barát” children’s newspaper in 1970 and 1971, to create traditional folk costumes of their towns for dolls.  250 dresses arrived; out of those the jury selected 140.

The competition was advertised in Hungarian, still there are 22 Romanian, 4 Swabian, 3 Saxon and one Slovak costume in the museum.  But most (130!) came from Székelyföld and Hargita County.  At that time, Zsuzsi became so famous, children wrote to her, and even parents, relatives, sometime the whole village got very involved and helped to create the clothing.

When the tour was in Sepsiszentgyörgy, a young girl offered to make boys’ outfits also.  Now there are nearly as many boys’ as girls’ costumes.

I would like to mention that many, but not all towns are represented here.  The collection was started at the end of the last century; by that time people were ‘undressed’ from their traditional costumes, so in some cases there is nothing left that can be reproduced.

The dresses are miniature versions of the adult folk costumes, many of them made out of the remnants of the grown-up dresses.  Some of the costumes were made by children, but the workmanship is so exquisite that some very talented adults must have had a share in making them.  Mostly they are Sunday dresses, decorated with ribbons, bows, flowers; tiaras and hats make them complete.

The costumes are displayed on 55 cm tall ‘alvó’ (sleeping) dolls which have hair and moving eyes, arms and legs.  The dolls were made in the Arad doll and toy factory.  After the exhibit in Bucharest, the dolls were donated to the Kovászna County Museum, due to a shortage of space.  The collection was exhibited in Csíkszereda, Kolozsvár and Sepsiszentgyörgy.  Because of the changing political climate, the tours didn’t last long, and some of the dolls were moved to Kézdivásárhely in 1974, the rest in 1996.  Since then, the collection of dolls is displayed there, for the pleasure of many visitors.

Currently, the collection is made up of 344 dolls, from which 244 are on exhibit.  The origin of the doll outfits is from all 40 counties of Romania, but most come from Erdély, Székelyföld, Bánság and Partium; Bákó (Bacău) of Moldova is also represented.

The dolls are located in three rooms.  Next to every doll, a sign is displayed with the name of the town (in Hungarian and Romanian, zip code included) where it was made.  The outfits are authentic, and the collection is still growing slowly. 

After our visit at the Museum, we walked around the city center, took photographs of the copy of Gábor Áron’s cannon, and finished our visit at the Rigó Jancsi pastry shop, enjoying krémes.

Karolina Tima Szabo is a retired Systems Analyst of the Connecticut Post newspaper and Webmaster of Magyar News Online.  She is the proud grandmother of two.



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