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Dongguk University Museum Needs Help

 

   
 
  ▲ Comparison between two museums. Left one is Sookmyung Women's University’s and the right is Dongguk University’s.  

A university’s museum could be seen as the face of a university. What is the current situation of Dongguk University Museum? Do Dongguk University students have enough interest in the Museum? How much investment is put in for the Museum from the school? The Post gives a report on the quality of Dongguk Museum by comparing it with other universities.

The Dongguk University Museum was first opened as part of the Buddhist university on September 1st, 1963. The Museum conducts search, collection, and research activities on archeological and cultural properties and art materials related to Buddhism. The Museum has aimed to provide the public with a venue for positive education, studied a Buddhist cultural experience, and staged regular collections as well as feature exhibitions throughout its history. Currently, the museum has a collection of some 3,000 works, including two national treasures and six treasures; National Treasure No. 176 “Honh-chi Second Year” (1489), National Treasures No. 209 “Bohyeopin Stupa” (Goryeo Period), Treasure No. 743 “Painting of a Plantain King Jeong-jo” (Joseon 18th century), Treasures No. 569 “Calligraphy of Ahn Jung-geun” (1910) and others.

The Museum has been deeply involved in academic studies in domestic fields and also abroad. Excavations are also carried out to study Buddhism and index survey. Furthermore, it has hosted a number of feature exhibitions, most notably “The Korean Master Monks Portrait Exhibition,” Dongguk University’s Centennial Anniversary Exhibition, “Path to Nirvana: Paintings of the Sakyamuni’s Eight Phases to Enlightenment,” and “Statues of Buddha’s 16 Disciples from Heungguksa Temple in Namyangju,” all of which were received by the public. Also, since 1973, the Museum has published an annual academic periodical specializing in Buddhism titled “Buddhist Art,” which features information on new research findings and materials, thereby contributing to further studies in related fields.
As a matter of fact, the Museum does not currently have enough programs or exhibitions set for this year and they are barely making ends meet. The Museum tried to hold the annual specific exhibition this year, but, they could not. The Post wanted to see if there were any problems by conducting a survey to hear the opinions of Dongguk students.

The Post surveyed 104 students about the museum for two days, from November 12th ~13th. There were two questions. The first question was, “Have you ever visited Dongguk University Museum?” and there were 86.5% who said “No.” The second question asked, “Do you know where the Dongguk University Museum is?” and there were 76.9% who said, “Yes.” According to the survey, it shows that most Dongguk students have not visited the Dongguk University Museum even though most of them know where it is.

The Post interviewed one of the students who said that he knows where the Museum is and he has not visited it. The student, who majors in Communications, said that he has not visited the museum because he does not know what is in the Museum. He added, “I cannot think of any reasons to use my time to visit a museum that I do not have any information on.” Lots of other students shared similar opinions and said that they have very little free time and it is stupid using that free time to visit the museum.

The Post also interviewed a student who has visited the Museum. The student, who majors in Economics, said, “When I first tried to make a visit, the door was closed. I could get in the Museum on the second visit. In the Museum, there was nothing that attracted me except a statue of the Buddha. I could not understand what the exhibition meant. However, when I wanted to ask about the meaning, I could not find anyone who could tell me about it because there was no curator.” According to the student interviews, lack of interest in the Museum shows that it is not just students’ problem but a University problem.

Also, there are design problems. The Dongguk University Museum was built about 30 years ago and the level of the building is very low. While the building is old, it is also too small for displays. The museum administrator said that even though Dongguk has 3,000 antiquities, only 200 antiquities can be displayed at one time because the building is so small. Hence if people visit, they are disappointed because there are so few exhibitions to see. Second, there are problems of programs, promotions and system problems. Students do not have any information about the Museum because Dongguk is not trying to promote it. There are seldom pieces that show Dongguk University’s history. In addition, there are only two people who work for the Museum.

On the other hand, lots of other universities’ museums are doing quite well. The Seoul National University Museum always changes the displays regularly and opens many cultural programs in their museum such as “Meeting the Movies in Museum.” One Seoul National University student said that it was very impressive because she never thought there would be so many displays. The Yonsei University Museum has more than 140 thousand pieces, related to all of the history. In Yonsei University, if a student does volunteer work for the Museum, the Museum will give them a work experience certificate. Moreover, Sookmyung Women's University Museum, Ewha Women’s University Museum, and Dankook University Museum are well designed. One Dankook University student said, “I could visit the Museum because of its program that encourages students to visit the Museum, and it was very pretty inside.”

Next year is the year of the Dongguk University Museum’s 50th year anniversary. Before that, Dongguk has to realize the problem and try to support the museum. The museum staff, however, said, “Last year, Japan donated pieces to Dongguk. It was very surprising and made me ashamed.” There is very little support and interest from Dongguk. If Dongguk would try, it would really not be that hard to make the museum better. Dongguk could plan events to get students to gain interest in the museum or ask professors to give assignments or do lectures that are related to the museum. If Dongguk does not wish to feel more shamed, they have to attract more interest and support for the museum as soon as possible.

Kim Ji-yeon, Han Ji-hye  tj703@dongguk.edu, ljhan08@dongguk.edu

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