It's every museum's wish to find a treasured piece of art. That's exactly what happened at the Honolulu Museum of Art recently.
A priceless relic from Korea more than 425 years old was discovered in the museum's basement.
"It's like looking back into a window from Korea 400 years ago," said Honolulu Museum of Art Curator Shawn Eichman.
Eichman has traveled the world studying East Asian Art, but one of the most significant pieces he's ever come across was sitting unnoticed in a basement two flights beneath his office.
"To find a painting no one knew about -- just a huge 'ah ha' moment," said Eichman.
No one knew until a group of Korean art historians discovered the work while sifting through a vault filled with uncatalogued artwork.
"They said this is very important. That's when we knew we came across something special when that happened," recalled Eichman.
What they found was a Korean ink painting on silk, dating back to 1586.
"We found one that is the gem among gems," said Eichman. "Ten years after painting the peninsula invaded by Japan, who destroyed everything they found. To be able to find anything before invasion is a huge discovery."
Art historians are just beginning to uncover new details of the painting.
Not even the artist or the characters inscribed on the piece have yet been identified.
"Do we know how much this is worth now? We have an estimate," said Eichman. "It's hands down the most valuable in our Korean collection."
The painting is just one of more than 3,000 pieces of art the museum obtained in 2003 from Asian art collector Richard Lane for $26,000. Now with the addition of their latest find, the collection is easily worth millions according to Eichman.
"When we look through all 3,000 plus who knows how many more discoveries can be made," said Eichman.
The work will have to undergo an extensive conservation process in Korea and will likely be featured at the national museum in Seoul before it returns to Hawaii.
The Honolulu Museum of Art already boasts the oldest Korean art gallery in the United States dating back to 1927.