Landscape of Seoul in the Griffis Collection of Rutgers University Libraries
Foreigners who stayed or conducted research in Joseon during Korea’s Enlightenment era had various backgrounds, such as diplomats, missionaries and soldiers. They expressed their impressions and introduced materials they collected about Joseon to the West in the form of travelogue, travel literature, etc. Records they left behind are considered important historical documents which shed light on daily life and culture in Joseon during Korea’s Enlightenment era as they describe and capture Korea’s geographical features and daily lives from the mid-19th to early 20th century.
William E. Griffis (1843–1928), author of Corea the Hermit Nation (1882), was the first American to compile records produced outside Korea for hundreds of years and write about Korean history. A vast amount of materials he collected were donated to his alma mater’s Rutgers University Libraries and stored in the Griffis Collection.
This exhibition is intended to introduce from the Griffis Collection what Seoul of the Joseon dynasty looked like during Korea’s Enlightenment era as well as the original state of Gyeongbokgung Palace and Hanyangdoseong (the Seoul City Wall). While extant photos have already been made public, the photos from the Giffis Collection are better conserved, which allow viewers to observe in greater detail and add more depth to research on modern Seoul.
The Seoul Museum of History remains greatly indebted to the contributions and efforts by the late Professor Yang Sang-hyeon, who passed away in an unfortunate accident while trying to introduce to Korea every single material he found, photographed, categorized and researched about Korea in the Griffis Collection, and Professor Yoo Yeong-mi, who passed on copies of the files to Professor Yang’s wife, Professor Son Hyeon-sun. We’d like to take this opportunity to extend our deepest gratitude.