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Wednesday,October 17,2018
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University Museum: To Meet a Broader World

  A lot of books about creative inspiration, inspired by art and aesthetics, have been flooding into the book stores recently and these books have been read by many.  But reading such books has its limits when compared with appreciating the arts in person.  How else can we develop our creativity in our lives?   
 The answer is a university art gallery.  Unlike any other gallery, a university gallery stimulates students, alumni and even the public to be interested in art. With exhibitions and educational programs, it fulfills its role by encouraging understanding and appreciation of the arts.  Then how well has DongGuk University Museum operated on this mission?


  How about DongGuk University Museum?

  DongGuk University Museum (DGUM) was established in 1963 to excavate and exhibit Buddhist art while at the same time using them for the education of students.  DGUM houses a collection of 3,181 works which includes 9 national treasures such as the Bohyeop-in Stupa (national treasure no.209, Coryeo Period).  The contents of their collection are classified into many categories, for example; craftwork, painting and sculpture.  The permanent exhibition is based on the museum's own collection.  'Sixteen of Buddha´s disciples from the Hungkuk Temple', a current exhibition on view from July 15 through August 14, features  wooden sculptures of sixteen of Buddha's disciples which were made in the early years of Joseon dynasty.    Although DGUM has an old history and lots of collections, they only have one exhibition a year outside of the permanent exhibition because of their fixed budget.  "We could not even make a brochure for this current exhibition," said one official of DGUM.  This decreasing budget has disturbed DGUM's activities as a university museum. 

  How about other university galleries?

  Moonshin Museum in Sookmyung Women's University
  Moonshin Museum was inspired and named after Moonshin (1923-1995), a world-renowned sculptor.  His art represents the beauty of Korean tradition through bilateral symmetry with images of life.  To pay tribute to his greatness, after five years of development, Moonshin Museum opened in May 2004.  Moonshin Museum has four exhibition spaces, a video room and a photo storage room.  Three exhibitions and two permanent exhibitions, all for Moonshin, are displayed there.  In addition to combining fiber design, his artwork is also commercialized as jewelry.  Also, it's surprising that 'Ensemble Symmetry' is performed with creative songs inspired from the sculptures of Moonshin.  Moonshin Museum has performed adequate living up to original purpose.  


  Museum of Art (MoA) in Seoul National University
  MoA which is located beside the main gate of Seoul National university, opened in 2006.  The architecture of the MoA building was designed by the world-renown architect Rem Koolhaas and it features unique designs, as if it was floating on air.  Inside, the spiral passage leads viewers to the exhibition spaces, video room and educational spaces.  "MoA is itself a work of art," one viewer said. 
  Three exhibitions were held when the post reporter visited.  'Where Art and Cinema Interact' focused on how artists interpreted films and themes, considered most important in visual art and was held from July 25 to August 23.  'Sigmar Polke: Music from Unknown Source' took a retrospective exhibition of the great master of German contemporary art, Sigmar Polke.  'Subtle Energies of Matter' jointly sponsored by Italy cultural center in Korea, highlights the experimental works of Italian contemporary sculptures and will be held until September 5th.  Apart from these exhibitions, MoA maintains a collection of 237, all Korean contemporary art. 


  Things to imitate from others

  As mentioned, university museum has their own exhibitions that fit their own themes.  Compared with other university museums, however, DGUM has distinct weakness which may perhaps threaten its future. 

  Visible to the student  A recent survey by the Post suggests that ninety percents of our students know about DGUM but eighty percents of them have not visited it-ever.  "It is too difficult unless you are  interested in Buddhist art," one student said.  An official of DGUM disputed that, saying they have worked on programs for special relics and draw many viewers from outside.  It's worth remembering that other university museums are still executing their mission by educating their students and promoting themselves around campus. 
  Cultural Programs  MoA has been active in educational programs for adults, jointly with Gwanak-Gu, Seoul.  "We just provide those as a facility of cultural contents," said Jeon Heui-weon, a curator of MoA.  The most important program is cultural volunteering.  Those museums offer an opportunity for everyone who is interested in art to become a docent(museum worker). Volunteering will be a good experience for people who want to work for museum. 
 "Thanks for the opportunity to work firsthand at the museum," said Lee Hae-mi, a volunteering intern of the Moonshin museum.  DongGuk university students want DGUM to offer a volunteering program or a publicity ambassador for the museum.  "Planning other programs for students given the current condition, will be difficult," replied an official of DGUM.   
  Budget and Membership  To improve the financial status, MoA and Moonshin museum have introduced a membership system.  "MoA has been supported actively by the school, so membership donation will be turned into a develop fund, not a budget," said Jeon.  In comparison, the fixed budget for DGUM has been decreasing over the past few years.  "The budget has been drastically slashed across all school institutions," said a school staff for planning& budgeting.  The Post asked, "how do you plan to re-build DGUM?" He replied, "We have no plans to build or remodel the museum until next year." 

To be a Better University Museum

  DGUM is next to the Hyehwa gate of DonGuk University, possibly to serve as a contact point for the university and the local community, but its small structure and fixed budget made it unnoticeable.  What should DGUM and the school do for restoration?  First, our school must have a fresh perspective, regarding the museum as a public institution, not just as a  consumer of school funds.  Also the museum needs to specialize in Buddhist traditional art, combined with Buddhist contemporary art.  Displaying artworks of students who are majored in Buddhist art at the art college will be a good way to draw students and the public.  Most of all, DGUM must always keep their mission to educate students.  If DGUM endeavors to build a new system for students, they can introduce a new and broader world to them.     

Jun Ji-min  onlyonejm@dongguk.edu

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