ICME News 55, December 2009
1. Words from the President
1. WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT
Superlative. I believe that is but one word to describe the recent ICME/2009/Seoul conference. Of course, others who attended the conference might use other similar words to describe their experiences over the six days in Korea. ICME/2009/Seoul (October 19-21) brought together over 80 participants from over 30 countries and about 280 Korean museum professionals, folklorists and other interested individuals. Eight ICME board members, including two past presidents attended. Also in the group were four participants in the Folk Museum’s Curatorship Program for Museum
Attendees were greeted at the Somerset Palace Hotel by delightful staff members from the National Folk Museum decked out in ICME tee shirts or ICME hooded sweatshirts. At that point, I think everyone knew this would be a different conference. The younger staff members welcomed new arrivals, answered questions and informed them when and where to meet the next morning. This was the usual time for friends to greet each other and quickly catch up on the progress of the past few months. We were greeted with mild, comfortable fall weather. Rains were conveniently scheduled for the Sunday before the conference and one or two evenings.
Monday morning the conference commenced in a grand hall of the Seoul Plaza Hotel, our site for the entire day. The Museum staff members, now more formally dressed, greeted conference member with the requisite name tags, conference bag (more of an attaché case discreetly labeled NFMK), and assorted publications. After the arrival of all participants, the initial formal greetings started. Dr. Shin Kwang Seop, Director of the National Folk Museum of Korea graciously welcomed participants to the first major international meeting organized by the Museum. My introductory remarks thanked the organizers and supporters of the conference. Additional greetings were delivered by Kim Dae Gi, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. He noted that one hundred years have passed since the opening of Korea’s first modern museum. The importance of the ICME conference was that understanding and respecting different cultures enriches life, he continued. Mr. Kim closed his notes by inviting all gathered to enjoy the beauty and scenery of autumn in Korea.
The first key-note speeches by Dr. Richard Bauman of Indiana University and Dr. Koichi Igarashi, Vice-Chair of the Japanese National Committee of ICOM set the intellectual scene for the presentations which followed. Then the group had its first introduction to Korean intangible heritage. By the end of the conference, the importance placed on Korean intangible cultural heritage was instilled in all of us. At this point we heard the music of the large bamboo flute and
Over the next three days, almost 40 papers on the joint themes of the conference - Museums for Reconciliation and Peace and the Role of Ethnographic Museums – and a round-table of museologists from developing nations were presented. Other keynote speakers from Indiana University, United States; University of Oslo, Norway; and the Korean Association of Museum Education addressed the gathering daily. The second and third days were held in the Folk Museum where participants were greeted by bright yellow banners announcing the conference. There we were introduced to Memory Street, the Museum’s outdoor exhibit representing shops of the past, another display of traditional dance and the B-Boys break dancers. Another performance arranged for the ICME conference was by Saeum, a fusion classical music chamber orchestra. The ensemble combines traditional Korean musical instruments with western instruments played to play a selection of western and traditional Korean pieces. It was delightful.
After our sessions on the final day, we were treated to the opening of a very special exhibition at the National Folk Museum, ‘Forever Fabulous’ Reinvented Hanbok (traditional dress). A show- stopping fashion show of hanbok designed by designer and donor, Lee Rheeza was part of the festive evening.
Enough thanks cannot be expressed to the organizers who devoted two years to plan ICME/2009/Seoul. With the support of Dr. Shin Kwang Seop, director of the National Folk Museum of Korea, ICME board member Yang Jungsung brought together an amazing team who made every participant feel welcome. Assistance for this amazing conference came from the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism, the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, Seoul Museum of History, ICOM Korea, The Dong-A Ilbo, Myung Won Cultural Foundation, The Ockrang Cultural Foundation, The Korean Museum Association, Friends of the National Folk Museum of Korea and The Group of Korea Folklore Academic Associations. Funding was also received from ICOM for the daily published papers. As part of the conference, the Museum established the following website: http://icme2009seoul.icom.museum/.
A three day post conference tour to eastern provinces of Korea (October 22-25), introduced the non-Korean participants to more of Koreas museum, monuments and natural beauty. The group was greeted by the Mayor of Andong where they visited the Traditional Cultural Contents Museum, a high tech display area. They also visited the Weolmyeonggyo, the Moonlight Bridge; and Hahoe Folk Village, where they enjoyed and participated in the Mask Dance Drama. The second day of the tour took the group to Gyeongju to see several sites including the Gyeongju National Museum and several archeological sites. The final day took the group to two significant Buddhist sites in the area – Seokguram and Bulguksa Temple – before returning to Seoul.
If you’d like to see a few images, before our faithful members send theirs to
I’d also like to wish all who read this newsletter a healthy holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Don’t forget to spread the word of ICME.To top
2. PEACE IS NEVER NEUTRAL: THE PARTICULAR RESPONSIBILITY OF MUSEUMS OF ETHNOGRAPHY FOR PROMOTING PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
by Per B. Rekdal
It is often said that “a loved child has many names”. And museums of ethnography are certainly known by many names: Museums of ethnology, anthropology, folk museums, folklore museums, etc. What ethnographic museums do have in common is that they are not defined by a certain part of culture, like art or costume, but focus on cultures and societies as a whole. Certainly, many ethnographic museums exhibit art, but they are not museums dedicated to art.
As knowledge institutions it is the duty of ethnographic museums to convey to their public professionally sound knowledge about the societies they deal with; their values, their cultural expressions, their organisation, and so on. At the same time, the ethnographic museums are themselves active parts of a society and a culture.
In sum, being museums and research institutions about and of cultures and societies, the ethnographic museums have a stronger responsibility than most other museums for taking up themes like peace and reconciliation.
But how should they go about it? The challenges are many, and are be related to the particular circumstances of the society in which the museum is located. This should not allure us to stay away from these complex issues, though. On the contrary: Today’s complications are tomorrow’s new insights and great successes. Peace and reconciliation is never neutral. Everyone applauds the need for peace, and the more abstract the peace we are striving for, the more neutral its promotion is. Let this be clear: We do need yearnings for better societies, yearnings that are above the concrete issues. Without such yearnings, hope and creativity would die. And museums fulfil an immensely important task in promoting peace, every day, simply by showing the fantastic achievements of human beings everywhere, at all times. But connected to concrete issues, peace is never neutral. And it is quite a complex affair.
When speaking of peace, many in my generation see in our minds photos of cheering people celebrating the end of the Second World War. A moment of true relief, a moment of victory over the undoubtedly bad powers! But was it in all cases a moment of victory for the undoubtedly good powers?
Peace reached after a conflict may have a winner or a looser, may lead to dominance or equality, to war tribunals or to conciliation. The victorious peace can be misused or be the true moment of liberation from suppression. Peace after a military victory may turn out to be the start of a different, longer war.
And peace after the loss of freedom? Totalitarian societies may indeed be very peaceful. But at what cost for human rights? Even in a democracy, peace has to be maintained in a living society with its necessary disagreements – also about what is a good peace or peace at all. Peace can be composed of all these elements and many more, and museums will almost always be part of it, one way or the other. Likewise, reconciliation processes are often contested, since they imply that former adversaries shall come to terms with each other.
For instance: In Norway one is still debating whether those losing their lives fighting for Nazi Germany almost 70 years ago should be reconciled as victims like others of this war, or should still be regarded solely as war criminals choosing to fight for an occupation force and a destructive political ideology. 2-3 museums in Norway have tried to manoeuvre between the pitfalls of post-war reconciliation, one becoming the target of angry war veterans and having to cancel a planned exhibition.
Museums in former colonies have been and are important in securing peace by conveying the idea of political unity on the national level, and at the same time taking care of and showing the diversity within the nation. They have been undertaking a conciliation process that has been going on for 50-60 years with considerable success.
On the other hand, by doing this, the museums are promoting the consolidation of "artificial" entities originally created by an unjust and unlawful act of colonialism. While these are now often countries with a strong feeling of national unity, it is at the same time important that the museums teach their public also about this aspect of their history, showing that the injustice of the past may be turned into a pragmatically necessary justice of the present.
Nevertheless, various forms of conciliation and reconciliation processes are absolutely unavoidable requirements for securing a lasting peace. Some may be contested and some may be highly successful programs where museums play a vital role in defining and showing common grounds that can be cherished by all.
One of the most positive aspects of museums are that they so often function as celebrators, in the broadest sense. Not only as celebrators of such occasions as different anniversaries, but as an exhibition celebrating the beauty of a craft, or the daily toil for survival, or a demonstration of marriage customs, or whatever really. The museums’ celebratory spirit sets the mood for a positive recognition of what is shown. And peace and reconciliation easily lends itself to our most idealistic attitudes, which combine naturally with a celebratory spirit. However, the result can be messages that are emotionally deep, but intellectually shallow.
Since neither war nor peace is neutral and museums will be part of it, it is important that the museums sort out their own value platform when promoting peace, particularly when concrete issues are involved. While museums seldom explicitly are political institutions, their political function must not be ignored. Where does the museum stand? How autonomous is it?
Quite often museums are more autonomous as research institutions than in their communication to the public. A museum is often congratulated when dealing with a political issue where "everyone" agrees about its conclusion. In Western Europe exhibitions criticising the then existing apartheid system in South Africa, were considered a recommendable way for a museum to involve itself in the burning political issues of the day.
But if a museum takes up a political issue where the conclusion is contested, the competence of the museum's leader as well as the role of the museum will normally quickly be questioned. This perhaps means that museums may deal with whatever they like as long as they are harmless?
Maybe, when dealing with real, unsolved problems connected to achieving peace and conciliation processes, the ethnographic museums of the world should perhaps be more willing to show the complexities of this too. I am not asking the museums to become arenas for different political viewpoints, but sometimes to give the public more challenging food for thought than is usually done. Perhaps also the critical view of the researchers could be presented to the public, rather than the simplified “objective”?
Memorials of war rightly evoke deep feelings among visitors, and they should. But they seldom give food for more than the simplest thoughts, however noble. Is it too risky to give the visitors a more nuanced understanding of the shades between black and white? Is it disrespectful towards those that are commemorated? Or will a public that really understands the complexities of reality be better able to secure peace? Perhaps the public would grow in insight if we opened our exhibitions for the uncertainties and disagreements of researchers?
Questions of peace activate peoples' most valuable and virtuous hopes for harmonious future societies. At the same time, we know that hopes have to be mixed with the dilemmas of the real world in order to be transformed into insightful action. This is a task for museums of ethnography: to inspire hope and optimism like only museums can, to give sound information based on the best sources, and to give room for insightful reflections.
(This is an edited version of the paper Per Rekdal presented at the ICME/2009/Seoul conference. A full version of the paper will be available on the ICME website, http://icme.icom.museum/, and in the International Journal of Intangible Heritage. Editor)To top
3. COMPARING TWO MINORITY-RECRUITMENT PROGRAMMES
by Tone Cecilie Karlgård
Two related projects
As one of the presenters at the ICOM/2009/Seoul conference I will make a comparison between the project Martin Earring presented and the project I presented. The presentation of Martin Earring from National Museum of the American Indian, NMAI was titled: “Welcome to a Native Place The Importance of Indigenous recruitment and Retention to The National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.” He gave the presentation regarding their concern and efforts to establish positions for indigenous people in the museums. I find it interesting to make a brief comparison between the recruitment project we perform in Norway: Mangfold i museene, Mim, and the way they go about this similar issue in the US. In a comparative perspective there are also interesting lessons to be learned for the indigenous, Sámi museums in Norway on how to enquire about people's feelings regarding the employment programmes and how to make them even better.
My presentation was titled: “Mim – A Way to do Diversity in Norway”.
When comparing our experiences in Norway and the experiences in the Smithsonian – it is obvious that both the programs have great potential to develop and be strengthened in various ways. In Norway one person is engaged in a 50% position to be the program coordinator, if this position is changed to 100% the coordinator may be able to perform the very important job of traveling around and visit the recruits at various times, encouraging them, listening to their experiences and helping both the host institutions, the mentors and the recruits to get the most out of the program.
The ICME 2009 Seoul conference provided inspiration on many levels of museums work, and maybe we will be able to arrange international seminars; sharing our experiences and exchange ideas in the field of recruiting people with special
4. 3 DAY POST-CONFERENCE TOUR IN EASTERN SOUTH KOREA
By Galia Gavish and Chavi Feingold
We would like to thank the organizers of the conference and the tour in South Korea. The organization and promptness were excellent. We were very impressed with the singing, music, dance and martial arts shows that exposed us to such a
The culture of design and costume is very rich and colorful. We were especially impressed with the museum design: toned down design in calming colors that enhanced the colorful objects; the art of lighting that lit-up objects with meticulous details - lone objects in small glass cabinets are lit with optic fibers directed on their most interesting part. We are grateful for the opportunity to see and taste the unique, varied Korean culture.
We traveled in three buses on multi-laned highways. We passed over modernistic bridges over wide rivers, among early autumn-colored forested hills. The trees had just started changing color. In between the trees one could now and then see villages with turquoise and bold green roofs, with tended fields and orchards around them. Every now and then we saw hollows with small mounds. I asked Prof. Choi, the archaeologist who is in charge of museums in the Korean Ministry of Culture, and native to the area, about them and he explained they were the villagers' graves. Prof. Choi
Andong is a city of scholars. There are many monasteries in its vicinity, where traditional crafts were practiced and religion, medicine, meditation, etc. was studied. The doctors are known for their skill and relative inexpensive fees. Today the area has become the center for medical tourism: patients from USA and Japan come to have operations covered by their health insurance and for plastic surgery.
2000 years ago the Shila dynasty ruled Eastern Korea, for a period of 1000 years. Buddhism began only in the 7th cent. Because of internal wars between kingdoms it was officially accepted only 200 years later, when all the kingdoms were united under one ruler. Before that Buddah was secretly worshiped in the mountains, mainly on the holy Seokuram mountain. Accepting Buddhism brought peace to the Korean peninsula.
The mayor of Andong greeted us at the Museum of Digitized Contents. We were shown a 3-D film, with lots of affects such as smoke, smell and physical movement, about the history of Korea. This museum is a new modern museum, a bit like Science and Technology museums. Lots of buttons to push, pictures to step on, large screens – all in the state-of-art technology.
Lunch was special: Heotjesabap, with Andong Shikhye (a rice punch). Heotjesabap is a traditional Korean dish containing several kinds of young sprouted vegetables served on white rice, grilled fish, and pancakes. This meal is traditionally eaten when performing jesa – ancestral worship. The literal meaning of Heotjesabap is "dishes for fake jesa".
After lunch we walked along the longest wooden bridge in Korea: Weolmyeonggyo – the "Bridge of Moon-Light". The bridge was constructed according to ancient tradition. By this bridge we heard about the destruction of Korean heritage by the Japanese, before WWII. The scenery of water and trees on both sides was very peaceful. Walking along the bridge enabled direct interaction between the delegates that was not possible during the conference itself. At the bridge we visited Hahce Folk Village, a World Heritage site. It has a river nearly surrounding it. At the entrance to the village there are wooden totem poles, to ward-off evil spirits. Inside the village we saw a mask dance drama, a combination of pleasing the gods for peace and prosperity with a show for entertainment. This drama has been performed since the 12th century. The masks are made of alder tree wood and each one has a special allegorical character.
Imae – the fool, Sonbi's servant.
We toured the village and saw the traditional houses, for the rich and for the poor. The houses are built from local stone and have tilted tiled roofs, pagoda-like. The houses of the poor have thatched roofs. In front of the houses there are carved wooden screens and gates with the name of the owner written in black Chinese letters. Each house has a garden with flowers and herbs, some planted in pots. Around the houses there are stone and dirt walls, with tiles along the top. Some walls have deep niches where the rich put money for the poor traveler, because tradition says one must not let anyone go hungry. Everybody had to give a third of their profits to the community, so no one would go hungry. Work is a very important fact of life. A young bride wore only cotton clothes for three years, during which she did chores around the house. Only then was she allowed to wear silk. At the center of the village we saw the Wishing tree. Wishes are written on slips of paper and tied on to a string fence around the tree. Very similar to wishing trees in Muslim and Jewish folk traditions. The village was named a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
For dinner that night, at the city of Daegu, we were hosted by the Deputy Cultural Director of the province.
We began the day's tour in Gyodong, Gyeongju, Prof.'s Choi's home village. His family has been living here for many generations. We tasted Gyeongju Gyodongbeopju, a liquor brewed from rice, which is considered an important World Intangible Cultural Property. After drinking some of the sweet liquor we drove to Daereungwon, the site of many royal tombs. The tombs are mounds covered with grass, some seven meters high. Only one is open to the public, Cheonmachong. In it were found amazing objects, many from gold. The originals are at the National Museum in Seoul. In this tomb one can see how the body was laid out in a wooden box, with all the objects needed for a good "life". All this was covered in stones. Over the centuries, the stones were removed, taken as building material. Not far from the existing mound we saw an archaeological dig of uncovered mounds.
After a traditional lunch in a small restaurant, which is itself a museum of anything, modern or old, found in the area, Gyeongju National Museum was our next stop. It is a well-planned, beautiful museum. It has three wings: the Archaeology Hall, the Art Hall and the Anapji Hall. Among the many outstanding objects are many statues of Buddha and his retinue. One is a big Buddha head found by villagers after a mud-slide.
Anapji Pond was our next stop. This was part of a royal palace. In the pond more than 30,000 objects were found, probably thrown in for ceremonial or religious reasons. There was also a big fire there and little remains. The place is a large garden now, and there is a large-scale model reconstruction of the palace, based on small parts of wood and tiles found in the water. From there we went to see the three stories that remain of the Ten-storied Stone Pagoda. The pagoda was harmed during the Mongolian invasion of Korea. Dinner that night was hosted by the mayor, with traditional dance and music performances. Speeches and thanks were given to all the organizes and helpers, who made our stay, at the conference and on the tour, so fantastic.
In the morning we drove up to the mountains. When Buddhism was forbidden, the monks fled to the mountains and many temples, large and small were built.
One of those is the Seokguram Grotto, on Mt. Tohmsan. This is a man-made cave, carved in the granite stone, overlooking mountain ranges all the way to the sea. There are many statues of Bodhisattvas and other deities in the cave, but the main one is a stone statue of Buddha himself, looking over to the East Sea. During the time of the Japanese rule alterations were made. In order to strengthen the cave they took it apart and used concrete, then put it back together, not quite in the right order. A well, at the bottom of the grotto, was blocked. The concrete caused condensation and the water had no place to go. Now there are hidden supports, air-conditioning and it is closed to tourists by a glass wall (believers may enter to pray).
Bulguksa Temple is one of the largest temples in the mountains. It is a large compound with many small temples and study halls, pagodas and shrines. The main building of the National Folk Museum in Seoul is an exact copy of the main temple. The entrance gate to the whole area is called the Gate to Heaven. Many families with children were there (a school holiday) and some children were building small pagodas around a tree and making a wish. Lunch was a personal Bibimbap dinner, a bowl of rice with six or seven different sliced vegetables and a hot sauce.
On the way back to Seoul we stopped in Inchen, for a traditional dinner, the last one together. Inchen is known for its pottery artists, and we went to see one of the work shops.
5. THE CHALLENGING MUSEUM/CHALLENGING THE MUSEUM - NEW ICME WORKGROUP
Museums of ethnography/ethnology are museums about cultures and societies. As such we should be able to deal with all aspects of cultures and societies, also issues that are seen as difficult to express in a museum, because they are considered controversial or should be silenced or is connected to dilemmas; ethical ones, political, professional, etc. In this work group we want to explore, debate and encourage projects that are challenging – for society or for the museum itself. Our method will be to present and discuss openly and frankly the problems and dilemmas we encounter when working with concrete challenging projects. The aim is to create a forum of colleagues working with or being interested in challenging projects and in turn help make such projects become an accepted part of museums of ethnography/ethnology.
We will start with a half-day session at the ICOM General Conference in Shanghai in November 2010 and will continue in the years to come. You may regard this announcement as a call for papers! (However, because of the limited session time at our disposal, we may have to make a selection of papers for an oral presentation).
Enquiries about this work group can be sent to Per B. Rekdal
6. CHINA TRAVEL GRANT DEADLINES
Information and applications for travel grants to the 22nd General Conference of ICOM to be held in Shanghai, November 7-10, 2010. Information can be found at the following website: http://icom.museum/general-conference2010.html. Please note that two types of travel grants will be available – grants for members from developing nations and grants for young members (40 years or younger).
Grant proposals are DUE in Paris by December 31st, 2009. Please refer to this website if you are eligible to apply. Please remember that you must be a member of ICOM. If you are applying with support from ICME, you must be a member of ICME or work for a museum which is an institutional member. If you would like to apply with support from ICME, please send me a copy of the completed application so that I can send in a convincing support letter. I encourage all ICME members who are qualified for this funding to apply for it so that our committee can be well represented at the triennial.To top
On October 31, 2009, 59 cultural heritage leaders from 32 countries, including representatives of Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia, unanimously passed the Salzburg Declaration on the Conservation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage. http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/tools/refer.php?s=921579023&u=20065169&v=2&ke\y=f258&url=http://www.imls.gov/pdf/Salzburg_Declaration%2520.pdf
From Marcy Brink-Danan (co-convener, CAJJ) on behalf of Erica Lehrer:
8. CALL FOR PAPERS
April 12-13 2010, ‘Making Things’ Museum Ethnographers' Group Annual UK Conference, Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading.
February 13-15, Fourth International Conference on Design Principles and Practices, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA. designprinciplesandpractices.com/Conference-2010/
March 13-14 2010, '(En)countering Globalizations: Religion in the Contemporary World', Asia Association for Global Studies (AAGS) 2010 Conference. National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan http://asia-globalstudies.org/call_for_papers_2010
10. WORDS FROM THE EDITOR
Being the last bulletin of 2009, this issue of ICME News looks back at the very successful conference in Seoul in the end of October. I would like to join the choir of grateful participants in thanking the Korean organizers for their immense work in preparing and executing this immense event.
Apart from the President's report on the conference and Galia Gavish and Chavi Feingold's report on the fantastic post-conference tour, two articles reflecting on the theme of the conference have been included in this newsletter. As one of the most experienced ICME members, former ICME President Per Rekdal presented one of the most thought provoking papers in Seoul. We are happy to present a short version of the paper in this newsletter. Entitled “Peace is never neutral” Rekdal's paper reflects on the many potential pitfalls in dealing with peace and reconciliation – themes all of us would probably agree are important issues to contemporary museums.
Tone Cecilie Karlgaard compares two minority recruitment programs developed in very different political settings – one at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, and the other in Norwegian museums. In each their way the two projects deal with the practical, socio-political and personal aspects of making the museum a platform for letting minority groups establish a line of contact between the museum, its collections and the development of the society at large.
Right now, we are working to get all the papers presented in Seoul together for publication on the ICME website. Given the number of presentation this is a task that takes some work, but hopefully, we'll be ready to present the papers around February 1. If any of the paper givers would like to publish another version than the one published in the booklets handed out at the conference, please send a copy of the version you will like to have included to me ASAP.
For the next issue of ICME News we would like to focus on collections and new approaches to dealing with collecting and collections. We will have an article on the highly interesting new Wikimedia-project, but I would also like to invite articles and comments on collections more generally.
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