The Wenckheims raised seven children and were famous for their extensive social life. They entertained several thousand guests at the palace, as evidenced by the thousands of entries in the surviving Kígyós guest book.
Among their guests were prominent members of the aristocratic world, such as Counts Erdődy, Károlyi, Draskovich, Bolza, Teleki, Dessewffy, Csekonics, Zichy, Esterházy, Szapáry and Cziráky, and Barons Trauttenberg and Vécsey.
A state-of-the-art interactive exhibition titled: “A Visit to the Wenckheims” has been set up in the renovated building. The display offers viewers the impression that they have travelled back in time as guests of the Wenckheim family. Upon arrival, individual visitors receive a visiting card with a character of their choice, and their name is entered into the guest book. The heroes of the exhibition, speaking in their own voices, recall the former inhabitants of the palace, describing their daily lives and celebrations, while guiding the visitor through aristocratic traditions and ceremonies, as well as romantic love stories. Thus, guests can playfully explore a magical, aristocratic world and experience aristocratic traditions.
The exhibition guide introduces both the artefacts and the interactive elements during guided tours.
The exhibition focuses on true local tales and anecdotes told by local heroes in their own words. Visitors plunge into a world of magic where interactivity plays a central role.
As guests of the comital family of Wenckheim, visitors approach the building through the elegant original main entrance, much as the former inhabitants and their guests did. Tickets for the exhibition can be purchased at the ticket desk in the foyer, where interactive equipment can be obtained upon request as well.
Visitors then use the terminals to enter their names in the guest book, which has been maintained unabatedly by the palace’s residents for so many years. Once the data has been entered, each visitor can print his or her own personalised visiting card, which includes a period photograph corresponding to the visitor’s age group.
Having entered the building via the foyer, the exhibition tour begins in the library, followed by the spacious reception room. In addition to restoring its magnificent decor, the library has been equipped with various interactive tools, such as the book recommendation installation, which uses the visiting card (character card) to recommend volumes based on previously entered information. By touching each volume, the contents are displayed and can be browsed. In addition, a “narrative image” allows visitors to learn about the work of Miklós Ybl, the renowned architect who designed the palace.
Entering the representative grand reception salon, visitors are greeted by an elegant interior of replica (custom) armchairs and arm sofas, and can relive the luxurious moments of a bygone era. Besides the traditional equipment, you can also try out the different experience features. A narrative painting in the salon depicts the second visit of Emperor and King Franz Joseph I. A motion sensor brings the image to life and displays an animated video to commemorate the remarkable event. In the film, a young actress portraying the eight-year-old Krisztina tells the story of her birth and orphanhood, the visit and reception of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth of Austria) and Franz Joseph, and the second visit of Franz Joseph, when it was his daughter who greeted the King with a bouquet of flowers. (The original painting depicting this scene has been destroyed.)
The original guest book and its modern counterpart, the visiting card activation terminal, where visitors can read their own name again (if registered) as guests of the Wenckheim family, are also featured in the exhibition’s Grand Salon.
The visitor route continues with the “women’s section” in the Countess’s salon, where the “women’s empowerment” installation allows visitors to participate in a test of courage: they can read the royal greeting poem into a microphone, then send a greeting card with their name on it after activating their visiting card. A unique feature for younger guests is the easel installation, which allows them to digitally colour and restore a picture.
From here, the visitor route leads to the Countess’s bedroom, where an interactive barometer allows visitors to become acquainted with the average monthly and annual temperatures of the past. Additionally, there is a staff call bell system that can be used to reach other visitors walking in the corridor. If there is no one in the corridor on the other side of the bell, visitors can watch short films about the daily life of the palace staff by ringing various bells.
The Countess’s bathroom and dressing room, of course, take visitors back to the turn of the century. In addition to the captivating sight of the bathtub, which was uncovered during the renovation and has since been carefully restored, visitors can also try out the perfume bottles, and open the jewellery box to hear old melodies that the Countess used to sing at concerts. A so-called “fashion installation” provides visitors with an insight into the fashion of the era. There are also two holograms to help you imagine how the lady’s maids used to dress their mistresses and how the chambermaids used to do the cleaning.
The children’s room is transformed into a sunlit studio. The Wenckheims loved publicity; they were featured in numerous society magazines, so they were true ‘celebrities’ by today’s standards. Many photos of them have survived, posing in front of a variety of backdrops and wearing extravagant costumes while performing the so-called “genre art”, a popular form of aristocratic recreation of the time. The primary appeal of this room reflects on this performance. Visitors can also take similar photographs of themselves in various costumes using a digital camera. At the end of your tour, you can print your images and purchase them at the gift store.
The first chamber in the series of rooms to the north is the bedroom of the Count, which serves as the introduction to the “men’s quarter” of the palace. This space has been transformed into a screening room where films about the palace and the Count’s family can be watched.
The goal is to recreate the atmosphere of the 19th century while satisfying modern needs by producing moving images using a device that is a cross between a digital projector and a period film projection device.
The next room is the Count’s study, which, according to the surviving documents, has been decorated as a semi-interior, with trophies on the wall. The Wenckheim family were aviation enthusiasts, and Count József Wenckheim (V) was the first to own a private aircraft in Hungary between the two world wars. In this context, a virtual reality (VR) installation in the room allows visitors to enjoy the experience of flying, viewing the palace from above as a passenger on an aeroplane.
The final room of the exhibit is the Count’s pipe smoking room, which features a restored original card table with a drawer bearing the inscription: “J. Zichy owes 1000 pengő (Hungarian currency between 1 January 1927 and 31 July 1946), 1936”. However, it is not all about having fun, it is also about work: interactive installations provide an insight into the development of the well-organised and prosperous estate, which was transformed into a model farm.
After visiting the exhibition, visitors can ascend the palace tower to take in a magnificent view of the Palace Park with its enormous and precious trees.