Interactive History of Hungary Released: Proud and Torn

Putting the turmoil of Hungary today in vivid context, an ambitious new digital history project, "Proud &Torn: A Visual Memoir of Hungarian History", has been released at www.proudandtorn.org 

As a “visual memoir,” Proud & Torn tells the story of the ups and downs of a Hungarian peasant family over generations. The digital project features nearly a thousand images, many of which have never been publicly viewed before, alongside graphic maps and drawings, to make the complicated story of Hungarian and Eastern European history accessible to anyone, from children to adults.

“The project is inspired by picture books, graphic novels, and the latest developments in online animation,” said project director and creator Bettina Fabos, a professor of Interactive Digital Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. “We have layered many images into photomontages and made parts of photos move as a person scrolls through the project. The many images make history come alive, and the family photos of everyday people make this history feel real and approachable.”

Proud & Torn features Fabos’ own Hungarian family’s photographs and stories about their lives. The project also includes stories and photos of other Hungarian citizens and historical figures.  To craft the timeline-based story, Fabos worked closely with two historians, Drs. Leslie Waters and Kristina Poznan, who helped construct the narrative over sixteen chapters, from 1848 to 1956. The history reveals the dramatic and often horrific events that led one family—like Hungary itself—to be irreparably torn: two world wars, the Holocaust, and more than a century of instability with competing regimes of autocracy, fascism, democracy, and communism.

“Proud & Torn perfectly demonstrates how digital history has the power to introduce people to historical content that may have never been on their radar,” Waters explained. “Our work combines critical historical analysis and engaging storytelling so that readers can understand how real people are affected by larger historical processes. It also shines a light on an area of the world that is poorly understood but critically important to twenty-first century politics.”

The project got its start in 2013, when Fabos, Waters, and Poznan were all Fulbright scholars in Hungary. The project grew to include a production team of designer Dana Potter; three web developers, Collin Cahill, Jacob Espenscheid, and Connor Thorson; and animator Isaac Campbell.