Treasures abound in university museums

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Treasures abound in university museums

Does anybody remember visiting the museum facilities on their campus while at university?
“Many people think university museums are dusty buildings with no exciting or innovative exhibitions,” said Kim Do-hong, the curator for Kyung Hee University’s Natural History Museum.

The tables have turned, however.
The Seoul National University museum is currently hosting a successful Andy Warhol exhibition.
The museum at Yonsei University, one of the biggest university museums in Korea, expanded its modern art exhibition hall in November to include an area in which to screen art films.
The Korea University Museum (founded in 1934), one of the largest university museums, has been featuring regular modern art exhibitions since early 2005.
“Korea University [Museum] has grown to be much more than a museum inside a university. The museum was rebuilt in 2005 in celebration of its 100 year anniversary, and is now around 10,000 square meters including six exhibition halls,” said Jung Ho-sub, the curator at Korea University’s museum.

The overall size of these museums and the quality of their exhibitions have grown to rival prominent museums without losing their scholarly touch. The Ewha Womans University museum, voted the best university museum by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 1999, 2000 and 2003, has been opening special exhibitions since 1972. Along with these, the school has been diligent in releasing exhibition books and research reports of the items that have been displayed at the museum.

Seoul National University
This university museum, which opened in 1946, was rebuilt and reopened in 2005 in preparation for its 50th anniversary. A modern art exhibition hall was built as an independent building, named MoA, or the Museum of Art Seoul National University.
The building, designed by Rem Koolhaas with sponsorship by the Samsung Cultural Foundation, is a work of art on its own. The museum holds important modern Korean art, some dating back more than 50 years.

MoA recently opened the “Andy Warhol Graphic Works” exhibition, running until February, showcasing over 60 drawings and prints by the late pop artist. Works like “Flash-November 22, 1963” and “The Souper Dress” are on display.
The university museum is also known for its archaeology and history collection, with around 4,400 artifacts collected on more than 70 excavations by the university since the ’60s. Items from as early as the Paleolithic period are in the display.
For more information, call (02) 880-5333 or visit either or

Korea University
The Korea University museum holds more than 100,000 artifacts and art works, including three national treasures. In 1996, the university held its first exchange exhibition with six American universities, under the title of “The Smell of Ink of Joseon Dynasty Scholars.”
In 2005, the museum was reopened with an expanded area, a rooftop garden, museum shop and cafe. The museum’s collection of art is impressive, with paintings influenced by Buddhism, china from many eras and paintings. In its modern art hall, works by artists including Chun Kyung-ja, Park Soo-geun and Kim Gyeong-jin represent the evolution of modern Korean art.

It recently ended a successful exhibition titled “Memories of Seoul” celebrating the 120th year of diplomatic ties between Korea and France. This showcased photographs of Korea by Frenchmen such as Maurice Courant, who lived in Korea during the latter part of the 19th century.
For more information, call (02) 320-1514 or visit http://museum.

Ewha Womans University
The Ewha Womans University museum has by far, had the most activity over its seven-decade history. It was founded in 1935 by the university’s professors and students in an effort to safely preserve cultural assets and keep records of the studies done with them. During the Korean War, some of the items from its collection were lost or damaged, but the collection was revitalized with donations from people including Helen Kim, the president of the university at the time; and Jang Bu-duk, and her son Jang Seok-hwan, a history professor at the university.

For the university’s 100th anniversary, the museum was rebuilt in 1990, taking the shape it is today. The highlights are a vast collection of pottery and china from the early Joseon dynasty, including an underglaze iron jar with grapevine prints from the Joseon dynasty that is National Treasure No. 107.
For more information, call (02) 3277-3753 or visit http://museum.

Kyung Hee University
The Natural History Museum at Kyung Hee University is a large, six-story building founded in 1978. Inside its doors, visitors can see everything from endangered mammals, insects and birds, to plants, rocks and fossils. As Kyung Hee University is known for its Department of Oriental Medicine, the sixth floor of its museum is filled with thousands of different types of plants and herbs found in Korea and other Asian countries. Along with these samples, there are detailed records of each plant or herb on its shelves.

On the second floor, there are around 755 types of stuffed mammal on display, including a life-size polar bear and wolves. The first floor has samples of all the rocks found in Korea ― 860 different kinds. With the addition of jewels, European rocks and fossils, there are a total of 1,800 items.
The museum has interactive camps and exhibitions, including an exhibition last August titled “Natural History Museum.” “We still have limitations, being a university museum. By creating these programs and inviting the public into our museum however, we are taking steps to promote the museum and its rare, diverse collection,” said Mr. Kim.
For more information, call (02) 961-0143 or visit

Dongguk University
Dongguk University was founded in 1922 when Buddhist temples nationwide got together to establish a Buddhist school. With this strong religious background, the university built a museum in 1963 with the aim of preserving and displaying Buddhism-related artifacts and art.

“These Buddhism-related objects tell so much about Korean culture as it was and is such a key part of life in Asia,” said Lee Yong-jin, curator for the museum, which also houses many national treasures.
For more information, call (02) 2260-3462 or visit

Yonsei University
This university museum has one of the biggest collection of items ― almost 100,000. The university started to dig up artifacts from the Paleolithic era in Gongju, South Chungcheong province in 1964, and the museum’s collection has provided important research material for the study of that era in Korea.
Next to the museum building are two Korean hanok, or traditional houses ― Sugyeongwon, the burial place of Lady Yi ― a concubine to King Yeongjo during the Joseon dynasty ― and the Widespread Relief House (Gwanghaewon), the first western-style national health center built in 1885.
In November, the university opened MEDIA+SPACE, a space which is operated by the university and CJ Entertainment to show art films only.
For more information on the museum, call (02) 2123-3342 or visit
For more information on the new movie gallery, call (02) 2123-3443 or visit

Hongik University
The reputation of the fine arts department at Hongik University as one of the best in the country is apparent in the museum’s collection of art, especially its modern art. The second and third floors of the museum building hold the “Archeological Art Room,” “Document Room” and “Folk Culture Room” featuring relics, Buddhist statues, porcelain, stone and handcrafts from the prehistoric era to the Joseon dynasty. The “Contemporary Museum of Art” room on the fourth floor holds key works by modern Korean artists such as Lee Joong-sup, Park Saeng-kwang and Kim Whan-ki.
For more information, call (02) 320-1322 or visit

Sungkyunkwan University
This university has more than six centuries of history behind its title. During the Joseon dynasty, it was the highest national education institute, where kings and important statesmen went to be educated.
During the Japanese colonization of the early 20th century, however, the institution lost its standing and only after liberation in 1945, was it rebuilt to include additional buildings for a natural sciences campus as well as a college of medicine.
The museum has a vast collection of items from the Joseon dynasty which are related to the Confucian lifestyle.
For more information, call (02) 760-1216 or visit http://museum.

by Cho Jae-eun
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