The museum's returns of objects to their country of origin are precisely no restitutions. They were donated or permanently loaned on our own initiative during collaborations.
Proper claims for a restitution of cultural heritage have not yet been made. As expressed in our mission statement, we are open for any inquiries by countries of origin.
Returns to Korea
As a partner in several longstanding collaborations with South Korean state organisations and museums, we already initiated the return of objects of our own accord. As stated in the restitution concept, the objects were returned to the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
Among our collaboration partners, Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation (OKCHF) plays an eminent role. This governmental agency works on scientific research, preservation and adequate presentation of Korean cultural goods in museums outside South Korea. Objects remain in the museums as they are understood as representatives of Korean culture abroad.
Motivations for a Return
The Mission Museum considers a return for objects that represent an eminent national treasure or have substantial emotional meaning for the culture of origin. An album of 21 landscape paintings on silk by a Korean painter can be classified as such a national art treasure.
A further motivation for a return of objects is a research interest. For this reason, we donated a herbarium with 420 pages of dried plants from the beginning of the 20th century. The collection area covers as well regions in today’s North Korea and is of great interest concerning rare endemic plants.
The rarity value of an object is another motif for considerations about a return. From a certain type of turn of the 18th century military coat called “Blue Harness", only a few pieces still exist in South Korea.
Album of 21 silk paintings (2005)
In 2005, St. Ottilien Archabbey gave an album of 21 paintings in ink and color on silk by Korean master Jeong Seon (1676 – 1759) to Waegwan Abbey. The paintings are stored at the National Museum of Korea.
Supposedly Archabbot Norbert Weber (1870-1956) bought the album during his second mission travel to Korea in an antique shop at Myeong-dong (a Seoul neighborhood) in 1925. It is not clear if the album was already bound or was composed by Norbert Weber.
However, different motifs suggest that the paintings did not originally come from one source; traditionally, albums cover only one topic. Among the 21 silk paintings, there are five real landscapes, three ideal landscapes, one animal illustration and 12 images of historic figures with events from their lives.
The collection was exhibited over decades at St. Ottilien's Mission Museum. Graduate student and later professor at Ewha Womans University Yoo Jun-yeong discovered the album in 1975 during his stay in Germany for a doctoral thesis. He came across archabbot Norbert Weber's book "In the Diamond Mountains of Korea" with printed photos of Jeong Seon's paintings.
In 1977, the delicate silk paintings were restored by experts on the initiative of St. Ottilien's archabbot. In 1999, an article in "Oriental Art" magazine by Kay E. Black and Eckart Dege brought the album to international attention.
After consultations in St. Ottilien's religious community, the album was given as a permanent loan to Waegwan Abbey, as it is a national treasure of great value.
The album was presented to the public in several special exhibitions. The most famous silk painting with an overview of the Diamon Mountains was in 2018 part of an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum.
The Herbarium of Korean plants (Herbarium Plantae Coreanae) from 1913 includes 420 single pages with plants from the areas of today’s North and South Korea.
Fr. Andreas (André) Eckardt OSB (1884 - 1974) collected the herbarium during his work in the Korea mission; later, he transferred it to St. Ottilien. Every plant is professionally mounted on paper; scientific name, date and collection area are specified.
In the area of today's North Korea, Eckardt collected plants in Suwon, Gyeonggi, Wonsan, Pyeonggan and in the Diamond Mountains, among others the Diamond Bluebell Hanabusaya asiatica (called geumgang chorong in Korea), an endemic bluebell species.
An example for a collected specimen in South Korea is Pteris excelsa, a fern species in the order Polypodiales, which Eckardt collected on Jeju island; this plant is known as endemic but could not yet be verified.
The herbarium was transferred in 2005 from St. Ottilien to Waegwan Abbey. From there, the herbarium was donated to the Korea National Arboretum near Seoul in 2015. This governmental organization is committed to scientific research and conservation of Korean plant stock.
It was the first time Korea received a botanical collection of domestic plants from foreign sources.
One page of the herbarium was preserved for the Mission Museum’s permanent exhibition. Page no 1001 shows leaves and berries of Eurya japonica. The Latin inscription on the page indicates that this plant was collected on July 25, 1913 by Fr. Andreas Eckardt.
On the background panels of the Korean Map of the World Gonyeo jeondo presented in the museum’s permanent exhibition, the genealogy of a family from South Korean province Iksan is chronicled.
Supposedly Achabbot Norbert Weber was the collector of the map; however, the archives give no information about the map’s provenance.
During its restoration, the panels and back sides were separated from a folding screen. The panels, inscripted with Chinese letters in drawing ink, were donated in 2016 together with their frames to Cultural Heritage Administration, a South Korean governmental organization.
Research on this family tree is not yet completed.
Military coat "Blue Harness" (2018)
In May 2018, the Mission Museum donated a Korean military coat, the Blue Harness, to the governmental organization Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation.
The harness, worn by infantrymen, is made of almost marine blue dyed thick cotton fabric, and is decorated with a lotus flower pattern. On the inside, square pieces of leather are sewn in at the chest and shoulder areas. These leather squares did not hold back arrows completely but prevented deep penetration. On the lining, a flower pattern is printed. It is uncommon that the proprietor's name is printed on the inside.
The age of the military coat is dated to the end of the 18th / beginning of the 19th century. Archabbot Norbert Weber acquired it on one of his mission travels to Korea.
The coat is fairly damaged; some leather scales are loose, the inside's silk is frayed and the iron studs left traces of rust on the fabric. However, it is very valuable as a research object, as from this type of military coat only a few pieces still exist in Korea.
A replica of the Blue Harness was sponsored by Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation.
Men's wedding gown (2020)
The dallyeong (literally "robe with a round collar"), a ceremonial garment with a richly decorated emblem on the chest is of Chinese origin. Together with hat (samo), belt (poomdae) and boots (hwa), it was the daily uniform of a Korean civil servant until 1900.
The populace was not allowed to wear the dallyeong. The only exception was for men of all ranks during their wedding ceremony. The garment was made for this purpose and differs in some points from its classic form.
Br. Bonaventura Schuster OSB from Münsterschwarzach Abbey, who worked only with a short break since 1959 at Waegwan Abbey, acquired the silk garment with a rayon (artificial silk) lining around 1960 and donated it to the Mission Museum in 1984.
Due to daylight exposition, the silk fabric was badly damaged. On the suggestion of Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation (OKCHF), the garment was restored together with another of the Mission Museum's dallyeongs at National Folk Museum of Korea.
After restoration, it was donated to the National Folk Museum in 2020.