The importance of the decorated artefacts of folk culture was first emphasized by positivitic theories of the mid 19thcentury. Gottfried Semper stated a straight connection between the genesis of arts and the evolution of civilisation. Due to his impact, ornaments were often considered as a medium of a peculiar „language“or „grammar“for ethnic contents, the primary forms of which were supposed to be stable and not subject to temporary changes. According to this theory, Folk art keeps this primary state of ornaments and evolution means a process towards individualisation in the sense of national styles. This theory has been influential in the raising of taste for ethnographic objects. Following the 1851 World Exhibition in London the institutions of decorative arts were created first in England and than on the continent. The Museums for Arts and Crafts collected among others models and patterns for embroidery and other arts. In the course of this process separate museums were founded for collecting popular artefacts. In the first ethnographic museums the dychotomy of urban and rural civilization was first expressed. The present essay analizes on the exemple of Hungarian decorative art the process of collecting national ornaments, beginning with the first publication by Károly Pulszky (1878) conceived in Semper's terms. The following discussion was determinated by an early influence of the theory of Alois Riegl, represented by the drawing teacher József Huszka, who elaborated an approach to Hungarian folk ornaments as a genuine prehistoric tradition not influenced by historical styles and interpreted as symbols. The artistic interpretation of the folk culture was widespread by the volumes on Hungarian Ethnography edited by Dezsõ Malonyay. In the same time, the system of Gottfried Semper also determinated the foundation of the Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts and the separation of an ethnographic collection in the Department of Antiquities of the Hungarian National Museum. Plans for an autonomous Museum of Ethnography during the 1870–1880-s were realized in 1898 as the collection of the Ethnographic Museum comprising universal ethnologic and Hugarian materials as well were located in a separate building. Since the early 20thcentury ethnographers began to interpret folk artefacts not as objects of aesthetic value but on the basis of their systematic situation in scholarly ethnography.