Busan Modern History Museum to Host ‘Memories of Busan’

The exhibition will showcase over 1,500 of Moon’s photographs, many of which have never been publicly displayed before.

Maru Kim
Maru Kim

The Busan Modern History Museum is preparing to transport visitors back in time with its upcoming exhibition, “Memories of Busan: City Sketches,” which will be on display from June 11 to August 11, 2024. This remarkable exhibition is set to take place in the second-floor special exhibition hall of the museum’s main building, offering a poignant and immersive journey into Busan’s past.

For over three decades, renowned photographer Moon Jin-woo roamed the streets of Busan, capturing the essence of the city through his lens. His work documents the rapid urbanization and the profound transformations that Busan underwent from the 1970s to the 1990s. This period was marked by extensive development, which reshaped the city’s landscape and erased many of its older neighborhoods and traditions.

The exhibition will showcase over 1,500 of Moon’s photographs, many of which have never been publicly displayed before. These images are not just pictures; they are vivid memories and stories frozen in time, offering a window into a bygone era. Moon Jin-woo’s dedication to his craft has resulted in an unparalleled visual archive of Busan’s history.

Visitors will find the exhibition divided into three evocative sections. The first, “Intersecting Scenes of the City,” captures the bustling daily life and the extraordinary events that colored the streets of Busan. These photographs portray the vibrant energy and the unique character of the city’s urban landscape during its transformative years.

The second section, “Memories of Disappeared Villages,” is a poignant tribute to the neighborhoods that were lost to urban development. Areas such as Cheolgil Village, Dolsan Village, and Yongho Farm Village come to life through Moon’s lens, allowing visitors to reflect on the cost of progress and the communities that were displaced in the name of modernization.

In the third section, “Faint Remnants of Old Customs,” the exhibition delves into the traditional ways of life that once thrived along the Nakdonggang River, coastal areas, and city streets before the high-rise buildings took over. This segment offers a nostalgic look at the simple, yet rich, cultural tapestry of pre-modern Busan.

An epilogue to the exhibition presents Moon Jin-woo’s most significant works, highlighting the historical and documentary importance of his photography. These images serve as a testament to Moon’s vision and his commitment to preserving the memories of a rapidly changing city.

To enhance the exhibition experience, the museum has organized several related programs. On June 11, the day of the exhibition’s opening, curator Cho will lead a special tour titled “Streets We Encounter.” This tour will provide a narrative journey through the stories captured in Moon’s photographs, complemented by a black-and-white photo session at a specially recreated photo zone, allowing visitors to create their own memories in the style of old Busan.

Later in the month, on June 29, the museum will host “Meet the Photographer: Moon Jin-woo,” a unique opportunity for visitors to engage directly with the artist. This event will include a discussion led by Professor Lee Sung-chul of Changwon University’s Sociology Department, exploring the socio-historical context of Busan during the 1980s and 1990s. Following the discussion, Moon will guide participants through the exhibition, offering personal insights into his work and its significance.

Additionally, the museum will run a series of curator talks titled “Curator’s Talk Series” on July 13 and August 3. These talks will provide behind-the-scenes stories about the exhibition’s preparation and the curators’ perspectives on Moon’s photography.

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