Smithsonian museum set to close down Korea Gallery

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Smithsonian museum set to close down Korea Gallery

The Korea Gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington is slated to close in 2017, ending a 10-year contract signed between the Smithsonian Institution and the Korean government.

So far, there are no intentions to renew it, a high-ranking insider with the museum recently told the Joong
Ang Ilbo.

Paul Michael Taylor, the director of the Asian Cultural History Program at the museum, confirmed on Sunday that the deal with the Korea Gallery will expire on June 7, 2017, with a complete shutdown scheduled for later that year.

Discussions over the contract’s renewal have already wrapped, after which it was decided that the permanent exhibition of Korean artifacts would be closed, Taylor told the JoongAng Ilbo’s Washington correspondents.

The news will be relayed to the Korean government in due time, he added.

An official from the Korean Cultural Center, a nonprofit institution aligned with the Korean government, was quick to contradict Taylor’s statement, however, saying under the condition of anonymity that under-the-table negotiations to renew the contract with the Smithsonian Institution were ongoing.

Located on the second floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the Korea Gallery has drawn nearly 800,000 visitors to its halls each year since 2007.

Covering 100 square meters (1,076 square feet), the exhibition hall has featured displays on ancient and contemporary Korean history, traditional family customs and ceramics, among others.

Research programs on Korean culture will continue at the museum regardless of the Korea Gallery’s closure, Taylor said.

News that the gallery would shutter in 2017 surfaced four years ago, prompting the U.S.-Korea Arts Foundation (USKAF) to organize a field trip program for high school students in the D.C. area to the museum.

USKAF was established in 2007 to support the Korea Gallery and introduce Korean culture to those in the United States.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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