That old junk might be valuable one day
You may think that a computer doesn’t belong in a museum, but Kim Gwon-tae, the director of the Korean Computer Museum Association, thinks differently. He thinks the 8-bit computers made by Samsung, Goldstar and Daewoo in the early 1980s are antiques, and that they will be treated as cultural assets in the future. As the product life cycle of electronics is very short, computers produced 10 years ago are often considered retro or vintage. Collecting vintage computers has been in fashion for quite a while.
Kim, who owns a Web site design company, started collecting computers as a hobby five years ago. Since then, he and his friends have collected more than 450 units in 200 different models. The most notable collectibles are two original Apple II computers, early models produced by the computer company. They are so rare that there will be no more than 10 units listen on eBay in a year. There are only 50 units of Apple I, the first Apple model, and only six of them are in working condition. About a week ago, one of them was sold for $374,000 at Sotheby’s.
Kim is to hold an exhibition of his collection in October. Eighty percent of his 450 articles are in working order, and he would like to open a museum someday.
If he does so, he will add one more private museum to the 262 that already exist in Korea. Existing private museums showcase items ranging from fans and masks to keys, lanterns, kimchi, alcoholic beverages, spiders, rice cakes, chickens and cameras. Most of them exhibit lifetime collections provided by individuals.
And yet while they offer many benefits to the public by preserving such unusual artifacts and offering chances to experience a different side of our culture, these museums often struggle financially. Free admission offered at national museums has put more pressure on the private museums.
Thankfully, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has proposed a plan to support private museums, and I paid special attention to assistance that will be provided to private museums as they transition to nonprofit organizations. The first generation of museum managers is getting older, and it is only fair to offer such benefits to those who gave up their property to be exhibited.
So please look around and see what you have. You will likely find many museum-worthy articles. The games we played decades ago have become modern antiques. The people of Goryeo and Joseon had no idea their celadon and pottery would become so precious and celebrated. The goods we uncover now may become the “celadon of the future.”
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun