Modern Design Museum: Hidden Gem in Hongdae

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As I found myself on the edge of Hongdae, further away from the bustling restaurant, cafe and club streets near the station, I wandered up a hill. On my phone was a map I downloaded that had highlights one could find in the area. 
If you happen to be looking closely at this map then you could have found me in the B1 section. The main part of Hongdae being in the D2-1 quandrants.  I saw something up there that said "Modern Design Museum" and so headed in that direction. 
After coming to the end of a steep hill I noticed clearly a building marked with that name, and looked suitable to house the attributes of design. 
I walked up to the cafe entrance and saw a sign which read, "Push red button for museum entrance." (Yes, in English.) I must have been in Wonderland as there was no one around, and a red button beckoning me. I pressed, waited a while and proceeded inside the cafe. I was greeted by a young lady who asked for 5,000 Won, and showed me up the stairs to the 1st gallery.
The Modern Design Museum is arranged in such a way that you can get a very good idea of how design entered and endured through Korea's modern history. You'll see that the use of design from the beginning was for filial and political use, mostly. But as time went on and Western culture seeped in more, the elements and "things" of design permeated it's way into the culture. 

Before entering the actually gallery you are greeted by this small guest table, with stamps and postcards for sale. I left a little something behind for their pleasure. 

The gallery space is sectioned off into different time periods but mostly categorized by how design had an affect on Korea.
Section 1: Inception Stage (Introduction of Western modern culture...) 1876-1910
The first area you walk in to is full of small photos, pins and memorabilia that any antique enthusiast would roll over in glee about. 

Mostly, you could tell, they were trying to show the earliest form of how Korea was promoted to the world. The use of small flags amongst others represents this, which you can get a sense for in the following slideshow.
The incredibly delicate and historic looking photographs were very illuminating. This is an archive definitely worth checking out in your free time. It gave me a greater sense of this country's history.
Section 2: Stationary Stage (Slump of Korean traditional culture and the beginning of the corporate) 1910-1945
The next section featured more commercial type items, like postcards and newspapers. Here you got a feel for the propaganda machine in high gear. 


It was fun to see familiar things yet in an older light, such as these traditional playing cards.

Everything had this real used feel to it and the collection was very well put together, organized on view in such a way you could really grasp the concept. These dolls, scene behind glass and featured in a traditional style book case, were ultimately captivating.

Section 3: Incubating Stage (Begininning of understanding the design usefulness) 1945 - 1961 / Section 4: Early developing stage 1961 - 1976 / Section 5 Developing Stage: (Systemizing design and development through international sports)1976 - 1988 / Section 6: Take-off stage 1988 - 2000 / Section 7: Maturing stage 2000 ~
One moves on from the second floor to the third where they start to enter a part of Korean history where things move upward economically and the role of design becomes more important towards developing an international image. 

Everything from small tin-toys, to rice-cookers and TVs seemed to infiltrate themselves into Korean households. It was actually kind of humorous because I could have sworn I've seen some of these old items at use in some places. But all together I really enjoyed this section because it gave me a broader sense of how Korea developed into it's modern self today. I also started to see how important household appliances are and their significance in the change of a traditional society into a modern one. 

From rotary phones to keyboards and wireless phones, it seems the conveniences of today opened themselves up to Korea, just as it had everywhere else.

When you get to the final room, the one with sports paraphernalia (the 2002 World Cup), you come to a full understanding of how design made its way through Korea's tumultuous modern history.

After I left the gallery space and headed back down to the cafe, I couldn't help leaving inspired. I mostly feel an affinity to the early postcards that were on display. Already I have inspiration for some new art works. Let's hope I don't take too long to create it.

I purchased a few postcards, said my goodbye and went on my way. But I am here today to tell you to check out this museum. For several reasons:

  1. It's a hidden gem amongst the glut of cafes, couples and Hongdae crowds.
  2. Since it is a hidden gem you likely will find yourself as the only person viewing the place. I was there on a Sunday afternoon, and was the only one. Otherwise, you won't find yourself fighting for elbow room here. 
  3. The cafe looked very inviting.
  4. There is a park nearby, worth exploring.
  5. The history! By golly... this place will give your head a swirl.

View 근현대디자인박물관 Modern Design Museum in a larger map

Step 1: Go out exit 8 and face this way:

Step 2: Make your way to the rotary:

Step 3: Go left and head towards a street you can take on the right, that features a Family Mart.

Step 4: Find the road on the right that has the Family Mart.

Step 5: Head down the road, alllll the way to the end. You will pass cafes and boutique clothing shops. Plus the Prince Coffee Shop drama place. 

Step 6: Find the crosswalk, cross it. Once on the other side make a little U-turn to find a road that is going uphill.




When you see the following, then you know you are in the right spot!


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