Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Taiwan gets an almost-perfect history museum (

Twelve years after the project was initiated, the National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH) finally opened its doors to the public on October 29, 2011.

Council for Cultural Affairs Minister Emile Sheng and Tainan City Mayor William Lai presided over the inauguration. Some of those who have donated artifacts to the museum – such as Taipei-based Dutch businessman and map collector Paul J. J. Overmaat – also attended. The celebrations featured local zhentou troupes and folk dancers, as well as cultural heavyweights like aboriginal singer Kimbo and Ten Drum Art Percussion Group.

Taiwan has long had science, literature and fine arts museums. There are also exhibitions devoted to Taiwan's Hakka and aboriginal minorities. The National Palace Museum is, of course, the world's greatest accumulation of Chinese art works and cultural treasures. There are even museums which celebrate the villages where Chinese Nationalist soldiers and their dependents lived after they retreated from the mainland in 1949. But until now, no single institution has presented a comprehensive historical overview of the entire island of Taiwan. The NMTH fills that gap, and does so almost perfectly.

According to the NMTH's Mission Statement, the museum was built to "preserve Taiwan's historical and cultural assets, construct the Taiwanese people's historical memory, facilitate ground-breaking studies of the history of Taiwan's traditions and culture, promote Taiwan's history, and build a diversified resource center for the use of scholars and the general public."

"The displays cover the history of Taiwan, its diversity and ethnic groups, to expand cultural horizons, and encourage Taiwan residents to know and respect each other," the statement continues. "The goal is to make people understand and cherish the multicultural land that is Taiwan."

Rather than present history in a traditional text-heavy format, the NMTH is filled with vivid models and images. The most striking of the former is the full-size replica of a single-mast junk, the kind of vessel that transported goods between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland during Qing Dynasty rule (1683—1895).

The junk is part of a recreation of the waterfront at Lugang as it would have looked in the 18th century, when the town (in central Taiwan's Changhua County) was one of Taiwan's busiest harbors...

The whole article, together with six photos, is here. The museum's official website doesn't yet have much English.

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