People of Seoul, How Well Do You Know Your City?
The first lecture of the Hanyang Museum Academy
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The Hanyang University Museum has always played a special role on campus. Established in 1980, it has made unceasing efforts to record and preserve the history of Hanyang University. Furthermore, it has fulfilled its original role as a museum, accepting contracts from the city for professional excavation of relics. Aside from the deployment of experts for excavations, it organizes, reports, and even preserves some of the artifacts for display. Moving forward in time, it now manages a number of exhibitions, celebrating not just the history of the school, but the achievements of its cherished members. For today’s students, it serves as a number of things; some take quick coffee breaks or occasional meals on its outdoor benches, some students take mandatory classes in the museum, and some genuinely visit for the exhibitions.
The most recent project taken on by the museum is a program called the Hanyang Museum Academy, which began on April 12th. Providing a weekly combination of lectures, visual data, as well as field trips on a designated theme, its purpose is the instillation of knowledge about the humanities in all members of Hanyang University and local citizens. Profoundly inspired by the trending attention of humanities from the public, the academy’s first round of lectures revolved around the theme of architecture. Titled "People of Seoul, How Well Do You Know Your City?," the museum recruited a number of experts to provide a series of lectures that could help illuminate the city of Seoul through the perspective of architecture. Recounting the stories of various architects and their works that eventually formed modern day Seoul, the chief manager of the museum, Ahn Shin-won, invited participants to “see how the dreams and lusts of the people of Seoul changed the city."
An interview behind the scenes
For a better understanding of the background and purpose of the program, News H interviewed Hwang Na-young, the person in charge of the planning. A researcher at the museum’s liberal science laboratory, Hwang explained that this lecture was not the first of its kind. The Hanyang University Museum had organized a number of lectures in venues such as the Seongdong District Office, the Seongdong District Office of Education, the Humanities Department of Hanyang University, as well as at occasional exhibitions and events around the school. However, what made it possible for the museum to coordinate a program that provides a regular series of lectures was a donation made by a graduate of the school, Kang Sung-hee. With the support of Kang, the museum was able to remodel and refurbish the lecture room, which they had for some time, wished to utilize for regular lectures. Altogether with a nudge of encouragement from the Chairman of the University, the program was set in action.
So why architecture? According to Hwang, the theme and direction of the Hanyang Museum Academy were a strict reaction to the public’s growing attention towards cultural art and the humanities. As it intended to be open for all people of Seoul, the theme had to grasp a wide audience, among them including the faculty, professors, and students. In the initial stage of planning, there was a discussion among three potential themes: architecture, museums, and food. Some of the reasons why architecture was decided was that it had been one of the initial departments of Hanyang, it is a recently trending field of interest, and it seemed an appropriate topic that could entertain different groups of people. However, even with the theme decided, there were a lot more decisions to make. “Seoul is a big city, and there were an endless number of people and stories involved in its architecture," answered Hwang.
The first step that Hwang took was to create a list of potential lecturers. After that, she consulted a number of professors, some included on the list, to come up with the best coordination of various experts in the field. Indeed, in spite of the common field of architecture, the activities of all the lecturers were quite distinct from one another. One of the professors wrote a book on the theme of architecture and humanities, whereas another worked directly in the field. There was also an expert who appeared on internet broadcasts, while another aired on television shows and worked with the press. There is even an architect who is expected to talk about the types of houses that a person could build in Seoul. Accordingly, each lecture was special in its own way, utilizing differences in style, topic, and tools to deliver its message. “The underlying goal was to provide a lecture that was comfortable to the public, yet with some academic depth,” answered Hwang.
When asked how she felt about the progress of the project so far, Hwang expressed satisfaction. As with any new project, her biggest fear was about the number of people that would show up. Despite her personal efforts as well as those made on behalf of the museum, she was afraid that not a lot of people would know about the lectures. In all honesty, she still has a hard time grasping the extent of its publicity. Nevertheless, she felt grateful that the 50 seats open for registration had been fully booked. So far, about 20 percent of the audience has consisted of students, 50 percent has been outside visitors, and the rest are a mix of faculty and professors. Hwang expressed the ambitious desire to extend the seats to a maximum of 120. “It seems difficult at the moment, but there are a growing number of contacts from professors wishing to give a lecture, and a number of audiences began bringing acquaintances to the event."
As for future plans, the candidates for the next theme of lectures are alcohol and fate-orientation, which refers to the study of one’s fate. After the decision, which is bound to be made soon, the next round of lectures will begin around October. Aside from the Museum Academy, the Hanyang Museum itself has exciting plans laid out for next year as well. Marking the 80th year anniversary of the school’s establishment, and the 40th year of the museum’s establishment, the museum will undergo an extensive reconstruction of its exhibitions. Hwang expressed particular enthusiasm in the renewal of the archeological exhibition which has remained unchanged since 2003. She hopes that many students will look forward to the new and improved contents of the museum. As a last word to students, Hwang urges more students to make use of the museum’s facilities. “I feel that many of the students are thwarted off simply by the fact that it’s a museum, so we are constantly making efforts to make it more welcoming to the students. I do hope that it can become a more accessible place in the future."
Lee Chang-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Kang Cho-hyun
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