Museums feel more pressure, experts sayIn their lectures in Seoul this week, two officials from the British Museum outlined some of the modern challenges museums face.
John Boyd and Robert Anderson spoke at a talk hosted by the Hwajeong Museum, an institution affiliated with the Hahn Cultural Foundation, in downtown Seoul on Thursday.
Mr. Anderson, a director of the British Museum and an author of several books on history and museum studies, talked about the concerns in museum management.
He said major museums around the world are now being asked to repatriate objects brought from overseas to their home countries.
“There is pressure on museums to become less international and more national in outlook,” Mr. Anderson said. “This is partly because of pressure applied by culturally rich nations which have ancient pasts to have overseas objects returned to their geographical, if not their cultural, places of origin.”
Mr. Anderson stressed that many European museums, including the British Museum and the Louvre in Paris, have been subject to such demands, preventing public museums from acquiring the kind of material that enables different world cultures to be compared and contrasted.
He also criticized how museums were being reduced to “community ownership.”
“Museums sometimes have been referred to as the cathedrals of the 20th century,” he said.
“Often museums were a source of local pride and their displays were often limited in scope to include mainly local products, local flora and local history. Often they were developed with strongly pedagogic interests, and schoolchildren in parties were the intended audience.”
Mr. Anderson described the increasing expectations of the museum’s role as “agents of social change,” quoting a passage from a British government report that stressed the importance of “combating social exclusion” through art in museums.
Mr. Boyd, a retired diplomat and a chairman of trustees at the British Museum, the oldest public museum in the world, spoke with enthusiasm about the underestimated significance of Korean culture in Europe.
“The European public knew much less about Korea than it should have, until very recently,” he said. “I find one reference in my own high school diary to the Korean War, but football and cricket really claimed my schoolboy attention. Even now Korea is, in my opinion, too little studied in Europe.”
by Park Soo-mee
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