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Catalog of Korean collection in German museum includes rare craftwork from early 20th century

May 18, 2020 - 15:29 By Song Seung-hyun
A cover of report “The Korean Collection at the Mission Museum of St. Ottilien Archabbey“(Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation)

The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, an affiliate of the Cultural Heritage Administration, on Monday announced that it had published a report on the Korean collection at the Mission Museum of St. Ottilien Archabbey in Germany.

“We hope that this catalog will strengthen the groundwork for future research on the Korean collections of museums overseas and help to enhance the public’s knowledge of Korea’s cultural heritage located abroad,” the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation official said in a statement.

“The Korean Collection at the Mission Museum of St. Ottilien Archabbey” is the 15th volume in the foundation’s “Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage” series.

The catalog includes research results of 1,825 Korea-related artworks and cultural artifacts held at the Mission Museum. The research was conducted from 2016 to 2017. According to the foundation, most of the items in the German museum were collected by the missionaries of St. Ottilien Archabbey, who were stationed in Benedictine Abbey, which is now the Catholic University of Korea in Hyehwa-dong, Seoul.

The affiliate of the CHA highlighted that the items collected by Archabbot Norbert Weber are notable. Weber collected 373 items during his visits to Korea in 1911 and 1925.

According to the foundation, the catalogs includes a full explanation of the current condition of Weber’s collection as well as information about the books and videos related to his collections. 

A scene of traditional wedding from Archabbot Norbert Weber’s documentary film “Korean Wedding” shot in 1925 (Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation)
A Korean woman’s traditional wedding gown that appeared on Archabbot Norbert Weber’s documentary film “Korean Wedding.” (Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation)

For instance, it includes the introduction of Weber’s documentary film “Korean Wedding” from 1925. The film was shot at Naepyeong Church in South Hamgyong Province, in what is now North Korea. The film shows a traditional Korean wedding in detail and also the ceremonial robes that are now on displayed in the German museum.

The research also discovered that the Mission Museum possesses the original painting “Manmulsang Peaks of Mt. Geumgangsan” painted by a Japanese artist. The painting was used as an illustration for travelogue “In the Diamond Mountains of Korea” written by Weber in 1927.

Moreover, the catalog also introduces rare craftworks in the German museum such as an ashtray produced in “Hanseong Craftwork Manufactory,” which existed from 1908-1913. The manufactory, which was established to industrialize the craft business while preserving traditional techniques later became “Craftwork Manufactory of the Office of the Yi Royal Household.”

The collection of the Mission Museum also includes relics of Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Korea’s first Catholic priest. The foundation emphasized that this finding has special significance, as 2021 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Korea’s first Catholic priest.

Meanwhile, the foundation noted that it has so far received two major donations from the Mission Museum. In 2018, the Mission Museum donated armor worn by Joseon infantryman, followed by the donation of a wedding robe in February 2020.

Since its establishment in 2012, the foundation has researched approximately 40,000 Korean cultural heritage items held outside the country.

The latest report can be found in libraries and research institutions here. The foundation also plans to distribute the report overseas.

By Song Seung-hyun (