In the past years, source communities intensified their claims for restitution, i.e. return of cultural heritage, especially from colonial contexts.

As a missionary collection, our museum takes these claims very seriously. We already completed scientific research of our object inventory; all sources were evaluated. As is common in missionary collections, there are only few records concerning provenance (circumstances of acquisition) in our archives.

So far, no claims for restitution have been made to our museum. As we defined in our mission statement, we are open toward any inquiries by source communities.

Returns to Korea

During long-term collaborations with state museums and governmental organizations in South Korea, we have returned objects on our own initiative as a donation or permanent loan since 2005. As the museum's restitution concept defines, we transferred the objects to the Republic of Korea (South Korea), represented by governmental organizations or state museums.

Among our collaboration partners, Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation (OKCHF) is the most important organization. The aims of this foundation are scientific research, preservation and presentation of Korean cultural heritage in museums outside South Korea. Other partners are the National Palace Museum of Korea, the National Museum of Korea, and the National Folk Museum of Korea.

The Mission Museum considers a return of objects, which are classified as eminent national cultural assets or which are of great importance for the culture of origin, as in the case of the silk paintings.

Research interest, as in the case of the herbarium, can be another reason for a return.

Not least, the rarity value of an object is of importance. In the case of the Blue Harness, today there are only a few of these military coats left in South Korea.

Below, we present our returns.


21 silk paintings by Jeong Seon (permanent loan 2005)

In 2005, St. Ottilien Archabbey handed over an album of 21 ink and color on silk paintings by Korean master Jeong Seon (1676-1759) as a permanent loan to Waegwan Abbey. The paintings are kept safe at the National Museum of Korea.

Supposedly Archabbot Norbert Weber acquired the album during his second mission travel in 1924/25. One of the paintings is mentioned and depicted in Weber's travel diary "In the Diamond Mountains of Korea". It is uncertain if the album was already bound or was composed later by Norbert Weber.

However, the different motifs suggest, that the paintings originally did not come from one source. Traditionally, albums are composed of only one subject. Among the 21 silk paintings, there are five “true-view” landscapes, three ideal landscapes, one animal painting and 12 illustrations of historic persons depicting classical scenes from their lives.

The collection was presented at the St. Ottilien Mission Museum for a long time. Graduate student Yoo Jun-yeong, later a professor at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, discovered the album in 1975 during studies for his doctoral thesis in Germany. He took notice of Archabbot Norbert Weber’s book In the Diamond Mountains of Korea (In den Diamantbergen Koreas); the images in the book showed paintings by Jeon Seong.

In 1977, the delicate silk paintings were restored professionally on the initiative of St. Ottilien’s Archabbot. An article published in 1999 in the Oriental Art journal by Kay E. Black and Eckart Dege put the album on the map internationally.

After counsils at St. Ottilien’s community, the album was handed over as a permanent loan to Waegwan Abbey, as it is an eminent national Korean art treasure of great value.

The album was presented in several special exhibitions to the Korean public. The most famous of the silk paintings with an overview of the Diamond Mountains was part of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of New York in 2018.

Herbarium (return 2015)

The Herbarium of Korean Plants consists of 420 single pages with plants from the area of today’s North and South Korea.

Fr. Andreas (André) Eckardt OSB (1884-1974) collected the plants in 1913 during his activities in the Korean mission and brought the herbarium later to St. Ottilien.

Every plant is professionally mounted on paper and states scientific name, date and collecting area. In the regions of today’s North Korea, Fr. Eckardt collected plants at Suwon, Gyeonggi, Wonsan, Pyeonggan and in the Diamond Mountains; amongst others, specimens of the endemic Diamond Bluebell Hanabusaya asiatica (called geumgang chorong in Korea).

A collection example from today’s South Korea is Pteris excelsa, a type of fern out of the Pteridaceae family, which Eckardt collected on Jeju Island. This plant is known as an endemic species but could not yet be evidenced.

The herbarium was transferred to Waegwan Abbey in 2005. In 2015, it was donated to Korea National Arboretum near Seoul. This governmental organization is committed to scientific research and conservation of the Korean plant stock.

This was the first time Korea received a botanical collection with endemic plant material from foreign sources.

One leaf of the herbarium was preserved for exhibition. The page no. 1001 shows leaves and fruits from the East Asian eurya (Eurya japonica). The Latin inscription of the page indicates that the plant was collected by Fr. Andreas Eckardt in 1913.

Genealogy (return 2016)

On the back panels of the Korean Complete Map of the World (Gonyeo jeondo) from 1860 presented in the basement of the museum, the genealogy of a family from South Korea's Iksan province is noted down.

During restoration of the map, the panels were dismounted from a folding screen and the rear panels could be separated.

Supposedly, Archabbot Norbert Weber is the collector of the map; however, no evidence can be found in the museum’s archives.

The genealogy written with ink in Chinese letters was donated together with the frames to the South Korean governmental organization Cultural Heritage Administration. The research of the family tree is still ongoing.

Beeekeping manual (permanent loan 2018)

Fr. Canisius Kügelgen OSB (1884-1964) worked from 1911 to 1950 in Korea. He was an apiarist and wrote the manual Brief summary of beekeeping (Abriss der Bienenzucht, yangbong yoji) at St. Benedict Abbey in Seoul in Korean language.

Kügelgen’s book was hectographed, i.e. duplicated with a matrix (template), and sent to monasteries founded by St. Ottilien Archabbey, among them Münsterschwarzach. From their library, a copy of the book was transferred to Waegwan Abbey, which handed it over to the Republic of Korea as a permanent loan. The copy presented in the special exhibition is owned by St. Ottilien Archabbey.

The history of beekeeping in Korea dates back 2000 years to the early Gogurye kingdom (37 BC - 668 AC). Today, the Eastern Honeybee (Apis cerana) is still housed in so-called log hives (hollow tree trunks) in Korea’s mountainous regions.

Fr. Canisius Kügelgen was one of the pioneers who brought the Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera) to Korea. This bee species has been established in many countries around the world because it is less aggressive and produces more honey.

Blue Harness (donation 2018)

In 2018, the Mission Museum donated a Korean military overcoat, the so-called Blue Harness, to the governmental organization Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The harness, which was worn by infantrymen, is made of almost marine blue dyed cotton fabric and decorated with a pattern of lotus flowers. On the inside, breast, shoulder and back areas are reinforced with square leather patches. These patches did not hold back arrows completely but prevented deep penetration. The inner lining is printed with a flower pattern. The name of the owner can be found on the inside, which is unusual.

The age of the overcoat is dated end of the 18th resp. beginning of the 19th century. It was acquired by Archabbot Norbert Weber OSB (1870-1956) on one of his two mission travels to Korea.

The harness is in a bad state; some leather patches are loose, the silk lining is frayed and the iron studs left traces of rust on the fabric. Nevertheless, it is very valuable as a research object; only a few of this type of military overcoat are still in existence in Korea.

A replica of the Blue Harness sponsored by the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation is no display at the special exhibition.

Wedding robe (donation 2020)

The so-called dallyeong (literally "robe with round collar"), a ceremonial article of clothing with a richly decorated emblem on the chest is of Chinese origin. It was, together with hat (samo), belt (poomdae) and boots (hwa), 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 robe was made for this purpose and differs in some points from its classic form.

Br. Bonaventura Schuster OSB from Waegwan Abbey acquired the silk garment with a rayon lining around 1960 and surrendered it to the Mission Museum in 1984.

The silk fabric was badly damaged by daylight exposure. On the suggestion of the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation (OKCHF), the garment was restored at National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul together with another dallyeong.

After the completion of the restoration, the dallyeong was donated to the National Folk Museum of Korea.