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An Art Refusing to Stay in Tradition, and Coming into Our Daily Lives

The Nokcheongja (Green celadon) Museum, Seo-gu, Incheon
I “cannot say for certain,” but most children don’t have much interest in the museum. Many parents choose the museum for a field-trip to open their children’s knowledge and experience, but there are few kids to meet their parents’ expectation. When you are under time constraints or you want to make use of your spare time such as vacation, weekends or holidays, the museum would be the one of the “best” places. Yet, children are sick of it.

Why?
The answer to the question is that the museum isn’t alive. If our museum is as much dynamic as the movie, “Night at the Museum,” which is so popular that the threequel of the movie was released, no kids are indifferent to the museum. In addition, there are too many no-no’s. It is hard to take pictures and to touch something. It is big trouble for kids. They want to take pictures and feel it. Of course, the museum is a “hand-on experience,” but it’s not enough to excite children. But it is not the case for the Nokcheongja (Green Celadon) Museum located in Gyeongseo-dong, Seo-gu in Incheon.

The Museum started out as “Nokcheongja Kiln Site Museum,” which was established for the study of a kiln site (historic site no. 211) and discovered green celadon. In a decade, it has developed as the nation’s only green celadon museum, a type 1 special museum. By the way, what is the Nokcheongja? Is it kind of a green celadon? It is a traditional ceramic fired with brownish green glaze on it from the Goryeo Dynasty. It is known for the first time when the green celadon kiln site was excavated by joint-research teams of the National Museum and Incheon Metropolitan City Museum.
Usually the ceramics of the Goryeo Dynasty remind us of a splendid and sophisticated inlaid celadon. But green celadon is rough and unsophisticated. It is, sort of, practical household-items made in a relatively short time rather than elaborate artworks which require long time and much effort.
Though few green celadon items left whole limit a valid judgment, it is safe to say that they look like going well with ordinary life. They are usually made for bowls, dishes, bottles, plates, and pots which are very useful in daily life. Their simplicity and plainness is of subdued style.
Anyway it is beyond my scope. Let’s move onto the story about the Museum.
The Museum, an interesting culture space, displays various relics that well show the features and history of green celadon. Visitors can have a first-hand experience through many programs. As ceramics are in our daily life rather than remaining in the past, the museums are offering lessons us in everyday life.
The exhibition room on the first floor shows the evolvement of ceramics from its beginning to the present.
Potteries representing each era are on display along with green celadon and the relics of celadon. In particular, the floor reproduces the inside of real kiln in Gyeongseo-dong, and life-size mannequins are installed to explain the process of making potteries. They are very impressive. A special exhibit room presents prize winners of Korea Contemporary Ceramic Arts Contest, which began since 2004, and the works of Incheon’s modern potters. At a glance, they do not resemble the traditional ones. But if you take a close view, they will disclose their own attraction that has something in common with traditional ones.
On the second floor, a pottery-class is conspicuous.
It is composed of one-day ceramic experience and regular course. In one-day course, visitors can have an experience of making their own works – dishes, bowls, cups, and clay dolls - with the help of professionals. The program includes throwing, coiling, making clay dolls, plate forming, and painting on ceramics. As part of life-long education, the regular course runs 4 or 8 times per month for 3 hours and follows more expert curriculum: introduction to ceramic crafts, lifestyle pottery, modern pottery, and more.
Though I wanted to take some pictures inside the classroom, but they were so seriously occupied with their lessons. I had a strong feeling that taking picture would be interference. Instead, I chose to take a step back and looked at the inside. There were various kinds of clays, spinning wheels, equipment and tools to knead the soil, glaze, and vessels. It was very obvious that the program was not for a single session but for organized and professional course. It was a useful package that helps all participants to make higher quality products with the understanding of ceramics.
After watching the exhibition, visitors can take a rest and look through some works, which are made in the class, related literature and materials at a café. Outside the Museum, other kinds of facilities are prepared for experience. A traditional kiln, which is not easy for visitors to encounter, is being used for a teaching material. Through an annual event, tourists can watch potters fire ceramics in a traditional way. In addition, more than 200 pieces of earthenware from Seogot region in Incheon are on display, which illustrates the characteristics and history of potters in the area.
It is advisable to see the Nokcheongja Kiln Site, the first official cultural property of Incheon, which is not far from the Museum.
But it is located in nearby golf course and has not any special items. Accordingly, visitation to the Museum can be more than enough. 2014 Incheon Asiad Main Stadium is within walking distance.
Nokcheongja and the Nokcheongja Museum can have a potential to become a representing culture content for Incheon. Visitors to Incheon can stop by the Museum and make their own ceramics. Admission is for free. Participation fee varies according to types but is affordable from 5000 to 10000 won.
15 to 20 percent discount is offered to groups of more than 20 people.
  • The Nokcheongja Museum
    • Location: 54 Doyoji-ro (Gyeongseo-dong) Seo-gu, Incheon
    • Transportation: Take buses at Geoman Station of Airport Rail or Gyesan Station of Incheon Subway Line No.1
    • Operating Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Admission: free