In picturesque Central Park of Song-do City, a reclaimed land area of Incheon, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has built the National Museum of World Writing Instruments - a tribute to knowledge and the methods of its dissemination over centuries. In yet another example by the Korean authorities to create living spaces that promote a holistic way of life, this museum offers an educative, tactile and entertaining experience for all ages.
The structure itself is an architectural hallmark, like sheaves of rolled paper embedded within a green environment. It almost feels like the building is growing out of the ground, giving it a sense of a living space. As per the museum literature, the building is called 'Pages': "It holds the story of writing systems. Pages was selected among 126 candidate designs through an international competition in 2017. The architectural structure of 'Pages' represents the background of writing." Designed as a horizontal building with fluid curves, it is all about the intersection of art, human evolution and living.
It houses a permanent exhibistion titled, 'Civilisation and Writing: A great journey', with some key exhibits including the Tablet of Round Ark (2000 - 1600BC) with Akkadian cuneiform inscription that tells the story of an ancient flood sent to destroy the human race by an angry deity. Finally another deity tells a man to build a boat to save himself.
It also houses the slightly macabre exhibit of the Psamtek-menty's Canopic Jar (664 - 525BC), which was used by ancient Egyptians to store organs removed during the mummification process, such as liver, lungs, stomach and intestines. The lid of the jar is shaped based on the form of the head according to the viscera stored in it, such as human, baboon, jackal, falcon, etc. In this case, it belongs to the priest Psamtek-menty as his title is engraved on the jar in heiroglyphs.
You can also see the Jikji from Korea that shows the origin of metal printing using the invention of movable metal type, which played a key role in the spread of information. "The oldest existing book to be printed using this technology was Jikji, an anthology of Buddhist teachings. Printed in 1377 AD during the Goryeo Dynasty, Jikji is now a part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World," according to artsandculture.google.com.
About 70 years later arrived the Gutenberg Bible - the first book printed in the West with movable metal type, invented by Johannes Gutenberg (1400 - 1468 AD). The museum has the Book of Joshua from the 42-line Bible (1454), described so because there are 42 lines in each column. This was the start of commercial publishing in Europe.
The permanent exhibition includes the first western encyclopedia created by a Roman commander called Pliny The Elder and books from the Joseon dynasty (1392 to 1897) of Korea, specifically the reformist King Jeongjo.
The museum will also house special exhibitions with a special one looking at the future of writing sytems, to mark the opening next month on June 23.
Featuring three key levels to the structure including a permanent exhibition hall at the basement level, followed by the moving exhibition at ground level or IF, along with an Art Shop and a Children's Gallery, which leads to the cafeteria and an outdoor exhibition area on the level above. Walking into Resonance is the title of the outdoor exhibition designed to let people enjoy a "calm moment in the landscape created by stones, light," and water movement. As the architecture is extremely organic, all the areas are easily accessible while giving you a sense of mystery and discovery around every corner.
Everything is accessible for People of Determination including parking elevators and walkways. Admission is free for all, except for special exhibitions, which might be charged. It is open from 10am to 6pm and closed on Mondays, January 1, Seolnal or Lunar New Year's Day, and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day).
(Note: This article was first published on May 9, 2023)