Thursday, September 15, 2011

Museums in Korea: Some Thoughts

Some of my museum-y friends out there (you know who you are!) have been eager for a post about museums. Here are my thoughts on Museums in Korea.

First of all, most museums here are new and clearly monied, valued, and supported, unlike the United States. They are big and grand, and filled  with extraneous employees polishing banisters and waiting to help with any query.

Second: A wealth of dioramas, miniatures and recreations. Nearly every museum had all of the above.

This is a reproduction pre-war Seoul

With shop windows

And period posters

Third: there is no shrinking from The Replica. You see labels like this all the time. It makes me think that putting such primacy on the unique original is a Western idea, not an Eastern one. And, in fact, most of the palaces and temples in Seoul are replicas, as the city was destroyed so many times over by war and invasion. It seems to me that the place rather than the thing is of import here, and preserving the tradition of its use has greater importance than the authenticity of the actual, original thing, building, artifact, etc.

Fourth: Children run wild and free, even hitting the glass with their palms. They are not shushed or reprimanded by parent or staff. There are also huge student groups in many museums.

Fifth: Animatronics, motion-activated screens, and elaborate animations are very very common; every large museum I visited had one or more (play videos for examples).

And 6th: Small idiosyncratic museums founded by passionate individuals, such as The Owl Art and Craft MuseumThe Museum of Chicken Art, and, my favorite, The Museé Shuim, a museum created by Park Ki-ok in the wake of her husband's death in their former home and dedicated to tradition Korean funeral art and culture.

Owl Art and Craft Museum

Shuim Museum

Shuim Museum

Shuim Museum photos found here.

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