Saturday, October 24, 2009

Memory Lane

Participants at the recent conference of the ICOM International Committee for Museums of Ethnography in Seoul were able to see one of the newest sections of the National Folk Museum of Korea: Memory Lane.

Memory Lane is a series of reconstructed shops from recent Korean history - the 1960's and 70's. A comic book store, record shop, barber shop, cafe, clothing store. Museum visitors can see 'normal' buildings filled with 'normal' wares of the period. Which can be quite exotic for the majority of visitors to the museum - both foriegners and young Koreans. From my own observations earlier this week, memory Lane offers the opportunity for Koreans who experienced the 60's and 70's to share these experiences with their children and friends.

Koreans are not the only ones involved in documenting contemporary society. A similar project is the reconstructed apartment building at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, showing authentic apartment interiors from the time of Ibsen to a Pakistani-Norwegian home from 2002.

The Korean and Norwegian projects each underscore the ephemeral qualities of time. We see the results of recent periods all around us, but when we try to actively recreate them (such as finding authentic linoleum from the 1980's, or a battery for a mobile phone made in 2005), the blank face of the linoleum seller or the phone store woman tell us that consumer products are generally consumed, not carried on for the future. Museums have a niche that they can fill here, as long as they can grab ahold of time while it continually fades around us.

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