|The Gugak Museum has reopened to the public after 15 months of renovations. The museum's archive room, pictured, exhibits rare and precious recordings of Korean music via both audio and visual media platforms. Courtesy of National Gugak Center|
By Anna J. Park
Korea's one and only national museum on "gugak," or traditional Korean music, has reopened to the public after three years of preparation and research. The Gugak Museum located inside the National Gugak Center in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, had been closed down temporarily since May last year for renovations, and the public can visit the museum for free starting Tuesday.
It is the first major renovation since the museum's original opening back in 1995. Since 2016, researchers and officials at the National Gugak Center aimed to renew the museum in a more interactive and intuitive way for the public; as a result, the refurbished museum, pre-opened to the press on Monday before its official opening Tuesday, has fully demonstrated the museum's multimedia features and interactive exhibits that enhance visitors' participation and enjoyment.
The museum has several sections of exhibition themes, including displays of musical instruments, music scores and historical documents, an archive room of rare collections, and an introduction of the representative masters of traditional Korean music.
|In the exhibit section of gugak musical instruments, over 60 instruments are displayed, along with multimedia touchscreens, allowing visitors to vividly experience instruments' making process and sounds. Courtesy of National Gugak Center|
Each of these exhibit rooms is equipped with multimedia platforms, through which visitors can vividly listen or watch recordings, sounds or performances. For example, in the exhibit room of musical instruments, visitors can not only view 60 actual instruments, they can also touch the instruments on a screen and view their making processes or listen to their real sounds played by masters.
Or in the archive room, which displays the 10 rarest collection pieces chosen by researchers out of the museum's 400,000 items, visitors can directly listen to the singing sounds of Korean Russians from a century ago, who were taken to the war with Germany during World War I and ended up at a prison camp in Berlin. Named "the Berlin Collection," the collection features audio files of five Korean Russian prisoners of war during 1916 and 1917; they sang "Arirang," one of the best-known traditional Korean folk songs in a melody that every Korean could recognize easily.
Visitors can also listen to over 70 recordings of renowned masters of traditional Korean music and dance. In addition, they can listen to the sounds of nature, such as waves, wind and birds, in comfortable corners of the exhibit room.
|Visitors can listen to various sounds of nature, such as waves, birds and wind, in comfortable corners of the museum. Courtesy of National Gugak Center|
"The sounds of nature are considered as main inspiration and original materials of traditional Korean music. That's why the museum displays the sounds of nature as one of the key elements that contributed to the making of traditional Korean music," Song Sang-hyuck, the museum's music researcher, explained during a press conference on Monday.
Kim Hee-sun, director of the Division of Music Research at the National Gugak Center, also said a music library is slated to open sometime in the future on the third floor of the museum.
"By strengthening the interactive and multimedia features of the museum, we hope this museum could be a place where visitors can find inspiration for new creations and contents of the future, through directly experiencing the beauty of traditional Korean music," Kim said.
The museum is open to the public for free from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Mondays, and Jan. 1. High-quality videos of traditional Korean music, such as Jongmyo Jeryeak, a traditional royal court ritual music, will be played at the main entrance hall of the first floor three times a day: at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. for about 15 minutes each time.