Thursday, February 2, 2012

Korea: National Museum director pursues homely atmosphere

Kim Young-na, director of the National Museum of Korea, said she would make the museum a more homely yet sophisticated place, at a press conference Monday.

Kim will celebrate her first anniversary as the museum director on Feb. 9. The former art history professor at Seoul National University said she was lucky as her first year went smooth with the return of “Uigwe,” or the royal protocols of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), from Japan and there was an increase in the number of visitors this year to 3.3 million from 3.1 million in 2010.

Putting quality over quantity, her focal project this year will be renovating permanent exhibition displays.

“The displays were a little bit old-fashioned. All artifacts were built into the walls and visitors had to bend down to see them. I think we need design in the museum,” the director said.

She renovated the Paleolithic Period Gallery and Neolithic Period Gallery first last year and reopened them in December and other permanent exhibition galleries will be revamped one by one, starting from Central Asia Gallery in March and Joseon Dynasty 5 Gallery in May to Metal Crafts and Buddhist Sculpture Gallery in October. Kim plans to employ a Dutch designer for the renovation of exhibition rooms featuring gold crown and Pensive Buddha Images.

Major special exhibitions this year include “Emperors in Istanbul” in May; “Korean Art Collections in the United States” in June; “The Civilization of Maya” in September and “The Best under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea” in October.

As local schools plan to fully introduce the five-day school week, from the current biweekly Saturday off, the museum will run educational programs every Saturday from March to November and distribute an illustrated series on cultural assets in textbook form through 700 subsidiary organizations across the country.

Expanding international exchange is another project. “Riding on the popularity of ’hallyu,’ many foreign ambassadors to Korea ask for exhibitions of Korean cultural properties in their countries,” Kim said.

The museum is planning two overseas exhibitions this year — Joseon Celadon exhibition in Topkapi Museum in Turkey in September and a museum in Sao Paolo in Brazil in November. She added the museum is also discussing future exhibitions with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the United States and a museum in Italy.

To improve the image of Korean Room in overseas museums, the National Museum will support budget and lend cultural properties.

Kim is interested in building networks with international museums. It includes a year-round fellowship program and personal exchanges with national museums in China and Japan.

“We will offer a three-week training program for Koreanology students in their master and doctoral course in summer,” Kim said.

Kim also cares about details on making the museum a more sophisticated place representing Korea.

An underground passageway connecting the museum and nearby Ichon Station on subway line 4 will be completed by October. A “Moving Museum” will be established at the path to provide information on the museum collection and exhibitions.

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