What has round, large, sparkling eyes, a pointed small beak, and a flat face? Still a mystery? It hunts at night, and its eyes penetrate the dark. Perhaps, you have encountered it through lots of movies, fairy tales, and books such as Harry Potter. Has the answer become crystal clear? It’s the owl. Nowadays owls are all round us, not only at the zoo or theme park but as fashion luxury good symbols on shirts and bags. If you want to encounter more varieties of owls from all around the world, each with their ‘own story,’ the Owl Museum might be the choice for you.
Paradise of Owls, In and Out
You might imagine workbooks, catalogs, and docents when thinking of a museum. However, the Owl Museum is unlikely to fit these images. It was established in 2003 by stay-at-home mother, Bae Myeonghee, who operates the museum on her own. All exhibitions shown at the museum were collected by throughout her past 30 years, which makes the museum feel more like a small antique café full of owls. Even though it doesn’t have workbooks, catalogs, or docents like usual museums, there are lots of special things. When entering the museum, she greets visitors with a big smile, asking “Would you like something to drink?” Drinking a cup of tea, she starts to explain all works.
She said, “I started to collect owls by chance when I was a student. Now, I have more than 5,000 owls in my collection including ones that I cannot exhibit because they are too valuable.” In the museum, owls are in everywhere, from her eyeglasses, bracelets and small bags to cups, light bulbs and ceramics to telephone cards, paintings and the rooftop of the building.
Emblem of Wisdom, Luck and Fortune
Owls symbolize wisdom, luck, and good fortune in many countries. The owl of Athena, also known as Minerva represents wisdom, and therefore, lots of people use owl symbols in libraries, bookstores, and at schools. Japan regards the owl as luck and good fortune, and in some countries, ancient relics show owl paintings and sculptures placed next to kings, which shows how the owl was regarded as an important animal. In Korea, there are expressions like ‘I got an owl house,’ meaning I won big money, representing an owl being so hardworking that it saved a lot. In this sense, owls represented fortune and wealth. Human beings always seek wisdom and an affluent life, so owls appear in numerous artworks from all over the world. Since there is no written account of the work on display at this museum, it will surely stimulate your imagination. Also, Ms. Bae will welcome any and all questions.
What Truly Makes the Museum Lively?
At the Owl Museum, there are not only owls from more than 80 countries but also affection and pride of owls, themselves. Inspired by owls, Ms. Bae has written several fairy tale books about owls and is currently working on another book about an eagle-owl for the Conference of the Parties at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Pyeongchang. By devoting her entire life to owls, she adds a certain flare, which makes the museum more lively and vigorous. Lots of foreigners can also be seen visiting the museum and show surprise at her passion. It will be a remarkable experience for you to find ‘where does hoot, hoot sound come from,’ this November.
1 Glass industrial art owl from Canada
2 Stone craft owls from Zimbabwe
3 Owl shaped accessories
4 Glasswork of owls from Murano island, Italy