The National Museum of Korea is the flagship museum of Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has been committed to various studies and research activities in the fields of archaeology, history, and art, continuously developing a variety of exhibitions and education programs. In 2012, it was reported that since its relocation to Yongsan District in 2005, the Museum has attracted an attendance of 20 million visitors. A poll of nearly 2,000 foreign visitors, conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in November 2011, stated that visiting the Museum is one of their favorite activities in Seoul.
Emperor Sunjong established Korea's first museum, the Imperial Household Museum, in 1909. The collections of the Imperial Household Museum at Changgyeonggung and the Japanese Government General Museum administered during Japanese rule of Korea became the nucleus of the National Museum's collection, which was established when South Korea gained independence in 1945.
The museum is divided into three floors. Symbolically, the left of the museum is supposed to represent the past, while the right side of the museum represents the future. The ground floor contains parks; gardens of indigenous plants; waterfalls and pools; and a collection of pagodas, stupas, lanterns, and steles (including National Treasure of Korea No. 2, the Great Bell of Bosingak, the exemplar of Korean bells of the Joseon period).
On the first floor is the Prehistory and Ancient History Gallery, which contains approximately 4,500 artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Unified Silla era excavated from sites across Korea. The nine exhibition rooms in the gallery are the Palaeolithic Room, the Neolithic Room, the Bronze Age & Gojoseon Room, the Proto Three Kingdoms Room, the Goguryeo Room, the Baekje Room, the Gaya Room, and the Silla Room. Ranging from chipped stone handaxes to luxurious ancient royal ornaments, the relics displayed here show a long journey taken by the early settlers on the Peninsula towards developing their own unique culture.
Gold Crown, National Treasure of Korea No. 191
This fifth-century Silla gold crown was excavated from the North tomb of Hwangnamdaechong in Gyeongju. In the North tomb, more ornaments including a silver belt ornament with an inscription of 'Buindae(the meaning of Madame's belt)' were found than in the South tomb. In this sense, this North tomb can be presumed to have belonged to a woman. A gold crown indicates the owner's political and social class.
Taoist Culture in Korea: The Road to Happiness
As its final special exhibition of 2013, the National Museum of Korea presents Taoist Culture in Korea: The Road to Happiness, the first domestic or international exhibition ever to comprehensively examine Taoist culture of the premodern era in Korea. The exhibition is going to display the comprehensive collection of Taoist cultural artifacts including paintings, books, documents, crafts, and archaeological achievements from the ancient times to the Joseon Dynasty. It is expected that the exhibition will be an opportunity for the visitors to deepen their understanding of the long legacy of Korean Taoism which has been a significant element of Korean traditional culture along with the Confucianism and Buddhism.