The Békéscsaba Museum Association, which was formed on July 1st, 1899, strove after collecting natural science and palaeontological treasures of both the Municipality and the County. Looking at it from a hundred years’ perspective, in 1900 to 1903, the names of István Beliczay, Mihály Zsilinszky, Tibor Tarján, Nándor Krammer and József Koncsek emerge among the first donors and sellers. Following the establishment of the Museum Association, in 1899, the palaeontological and the ornithological collections were prevalent. Still a student of law at the time and a founding member, Tibor Tarján donated a collection of almost 100 bird’s eggs to the Association in 1902. (This collection was lost after the Second World War.) This gesture was an overture to the subsequent collecting work and donation of ornithology of nearly half a century. (The first pieces of this collection dated back to 1894.)
Tibor Tarján, after 1925, as a curator of the natural science collection, was the first genuine natural scientist museologist of the Museum. By his incredible working capacity, his professional skill and executive ability, he soon acquired national fame. He kept in close touch with hunters, amateur fowlers, outstanding taxidermists (Elek Dinya, Mihály Hankó, János Lipták), thus enriching the collection by 25 to 50 bird’s preparations a year. (The museum, until the Second World War, was enriched by almost 250 bird’s preparations.) Natural science collecting ceased for almost a quarter of a century following the tragic death of Tibor Tarján. The relevant sorting out and re-cataloguing were performed by professor Béla Hankó from 1952 to 1954. In the field of collection development, the collection of bird’s eggs of Lajos Palágyi (he donated a collection of 115 pieces to the Museum in 1952) as well as more than a dozen gifts donated to the Museum by the National Centre of Museums are worth mentioning. In 1963, the collection consisted of 583 pieces.
Natural science special museology was revived in 1973 when Zsigmond Réthy became employed by the Museum. He was the first curator of environment museology. Under Réthy’s leadership, the Department of Natural Science of the Museum was established in 1980. It was then that Gyula Kovács and Tamás Domokos, malacologists, started their activities of museology. In the year to come, Gyula Kovács left the Museum and Éva Kertész, botanist, was employed at the Department of the Museum. Macalogocical and botanic collecting were started dynamically at the time and have lasted ever since, mostly in the areas of environmental protection and as parts of various programmes. By way of a donation in the early 1990s by Ádám Zsilinszky, a retired head teacher, the museum now again has a collection of entomology (insectology). (The former collections of the Museum consisting of nearly 1,100 insects and 80 butterflies disappeared without trace after the Second World War.)
In the course of the past twenty years, thanks to the professional activities of Éva Kertész, the collection of botany has been extended from almost nothing to one consisting of nearly 6,000 items. The research programme entitled “The Natural Image of Békés county” was started in the 1980s, having the objective to explore the natural treasures of the southern region east of the river Tisza. The collection of plants deriving from the region now contains 5,040 items. A small fraction of the herbarium (270 items) is made up of the plants collected from some other areas of Hungary (Balaton uplands, Bükk mountains, Nagyléta, Pocsaj, Zemplén mountains).
From the time of the formation of the department of natural science to 1999, a significant (consisting of 12,000 items) quarter and recent collection of malacology was established. The data base of the recent (species of our time) collection of malacology was opened in 1980 and it now contains 3,325 items which have mostly been collected around Bélmegyer, Biharugra and Doboz. In addition, the material collected from the catchment area of the Körös rivers is also significant. Despite quick enrichment, the museum managed to store the collections in appropriate bureaus and chests of drawers. The registration of the collection of natural science is usually performed in the forms of cabinet cadaster or computer data base, therefore, with the exception of the bird’s preparations, no accession numbers are attached to the lists of the museum objects.
The most valuable pieces of the collection of natural science now consisting of 20.000 items, are the bird’s preparations, irreplaceable from the point of view of history of science. The preparations, made at the time of Tibor Tarján, have been built into the Pro Natura collection. The collection of ornithology contains nearly 200 species. The times of collecting them may be grouped around two dates: 1927 and 1935. 20% of the processed and dated collections date back to the years from 1925 to 1930, while 61% to those from 1933 to 1943. 25% (!) of the dated and inventoried collection materials date back to the year 1925. The oldest preparation (Otis tarda – a bustard’s couple) was made in 1901, which was donated to the museum by Mihály Zsilinszky, historian. The donors of the collection of avifaunistics were: Sándor Abonyi, András Csath, DÁV, Mihály Hankó, the National Centre of Hungarian Museums, László Povázsay, István Szurovecz, Tibor Tarján and the afore-mentioned Mihály Zsilinszky.