Creating a new generation of museums : Conference brings together professionals rethinking function of creative spaces

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Creating a new generation of museums : Conference brings together professionals rethinking function of creative spaces


Participants at the Yeongwol International Museum Forum come from all around the world to discuss how to make museums and galleries more sustainable within their communities as well as how to make the facilities useful for locals. [INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF MUSEUM KOREA]

Yeongwol County in Gangwon, which used to provide the coal to fuel Korea’s energy industry, now fuels the country’s cultural industry with its many museums. The county chose to construct museums to grow its local economy, which has long depended on industries such as tourism and agriculture.

Yeongwol is now attracting an international group of museum and art gallery professionals for the fifth edition of the Yeongwol International Museum Forum. The event will last for three days starting Sept. 14.

Under the theme of “Sustainability of Community and Future Museum,” 23 international museum experts, including Jette Sandahl, former director for the Museum of Copenhagen, and Andrey Martynov, former general director of the Moscow Biennale Art Foundation, will discuss how to create content that makes museums more appealing to visitors. About 53 local experts will also share their insights.

“Yeongwol, a small city once known as a place filled with abandoned mines, has been transformed into a cultural destination with museums covering different subjects ranging from art, history and science,” said Park Sun-kyu, mayor of Yeongwol County at a press conference Friday.

“We wanted to show how a small county can be connected to the bigger world through museums.”

The county only had about five or so museums back in 2008 when it was designated a special museum district by the government. Since then, to stimulate the local economy, the county opened more museums, both public and private, bringing its total to 26. As the push for more museums was intended to take away the town’s barren image, many of the new museums were set up in buildings that were no longer in use, such as schools or old welfare centers.

“Giving a new function to old buildings that were known as [places people refrained from going to] made the ambience around the area much brighter,” said Mayor Park. He explained that its Museum of Musical Instruments of the World is housed in a renovated welfare center, and the African Art Museum in Yeongwol is in a building that used to be a school.


Bae Ki-dong, director-general of the National Museum of Korea as well as president of the International Council of Museums’ Asia-Pacific Alliance, speaks at a previous museum forum. [INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF MUSEUM KOREA]

Through the annual forum, the county will not only present what they have done but also gather guidance on how to set its direction in making museums places worth visiting for locals and international visitors.

Since Yeongwol is about 70 minutes from the venues hosting the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February, the forum also will discuss how to take advantage of the global event and attracts visitors to the museums in Yeongwol if they are looking to take a break from the competition.

The forum will also touch on how to employ more advanced artificial intelligence technology in order to add more content at museums, as well as what innovative measures smaller museums can take to make themselves more sustainable.

“These discussions are needed to seek out new platforms where we can continuously cooperate with the global community,” said Lee Sang-suk, museum team manager for the county.

Besides talks offered by global experts, the forum has also set up time for college students majoring in tourism to share their ideas. They will be able to send their questions instantly through an online chat service.

To encourage local artists to create new works inspired by the museums in Yeongwol, the county is currently recruiting local artists for a residency program and will display their work starting on Sept. 13 at the Yeongwol J Cube Art Museum.


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