This rich collection focuses mainly on the Joseon period, Korea's last dynasty which lasted over five centuries. However, earlier periods and contemporary works are also represented in a collection that spans over 2,000 years.

The collection features decorative arts and crafts which date mainly from the late Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) to the early 20th century, although it includes earlier pieces, most notably from the Three Kingdoms Period to Late Silla (57 BC – 935 AD).

Superb ceramics

Ceramic water droppers in the form of a peach with leaves and stem, decorated in underglaze blue and brownish red: Korea, 19th century.

Ceramics are the most significant component representative of developments over several periods of Korean history. Korean ceramics have long been considered the finest in East Asia. The ceramics in the Korean Collection are mostly representative of the Joseon dynasty, including buncheong stoneware from the early Joseon; and white porcelain (baekja) with both underglaze blue and underglaze red painting from the later Joseon.

Earlier wares include celadon ceramics from the Goryeo dynasty, and a range of stoneware pedestal cups and vessels from the earlier Three Kingdoms Period. These come from a number of collectors and sources including Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth Dingwall (1869–1946), Dr Neil Gordon Munro (1863–1942), and Reverend Stanley T Smith (1876–1954).

Dress and accessories

Girl's jacket (saekdong jeogori) of striped silk, worn over a long sleeveless dress: Korea, Joseon Dynasty, late 19th century.

Dress and accessories in the collection include several examples of Korea's national dress known as hanbok. Among these are items of costume for both adults and children of both genders, including skirts, jackets, and coats. Accessories include traditional footwear, headgear and purses.

Joseon Korea

Set of 32 chessmen of wood, coloured red and green: Korea, c1900.

The collection features a number of pieces associated with life in late Joseon Korea of the late 19th and 20th centuries. This ranges from tobacco pipes, to playing cards and gaming pieces, fans, a Korean gazetteer, screen paintings on paper, and lacquer ware. The collection includes traditional Korean furniture, for example a brass and iron bound bandaji blanket chests of zelkova wood.

Contemporary Korea

Large cluster of 99 small brass bells used in shaman ritual of Hwanghae province to call spirits, deliver their words and demonstrate their miraculous virtues: Korea, 1970s.

The 20th century collection was built in part through gift. In 2002 the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism donated pieces illustrative of modern Korean shamanic practice, which remains an important aspect of contemporary Korean life and dates from the 1960s to the late 1990s.

More recent acquisitions of Korean material have focused on work of some of South Korea's leading ceramicists. These include a white porcelain jar by Kim Yikyung (b. 1935), a stoneware jar by Cho Chung-hyun (b. 1940) entitled Summer Willow Greets Autumn, and a bowl from Suku Park's (b. 1947) Winter Series.

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