National Taiwan University (臺灣大學, NTU) recently commemorated its 80th anniversary by opening six of its 12 academic museums to the public and plans to open another three next year.
"The collections in each museum were originally for research purposes," said Tsai Chiung-min (蔡烔民), a researcher at NTU's Center of Digital Archives. "For this reason, we didn't make them accessible to the public."
If public museums use their collections to attract visitors who are after general knowledge, research museums serve the opposite function by keeping specimens or artifacts for the exclusive use of experts.
PHOTO: NOAH BUCHAN, TAIPEI TIMES
To make the museums visitor friendly, Tsai said, the university renovated and expanded existing facilities - mostly dusty basements and messy storerooms.
"In the past," he said, "we feared that people would say, 'Why is it not clean enough? Why is it not like a regular museum?'"
A first stop on any visit should be the Gallery of NTU's History (校史館) because it includes a brief introduction to each museum. Located a few minutes' walk from NTU's main gate at the Gongguan MRT station, the Gallery is housed on the second floor of a Japanese-era colonial building.
The exhibition displays books, pictures and files documenting some of Taiwan's most momentous events including the White Terror era, the 1970s Student Protest Movement, Taiwan's withdrawal from the UN and NTU's direct elections for student representatives, to name a few.
One section, Services to Society, showcases research at the university that has provided practical benefits to humankind. The Pursuit of Excellence section highlights public figures.
The Gallery's Chuan Lyu Exhibition Hall (川流廳) houses the Window to University Museums section, where artifacts, pictures and specimens are used to give a brief introduction to each museum. The hall also features interactive displays and video presentations.
The department of anthropology has two museums, one in the Exhibition Hall of Archaeology and one in the Exhibition Hall of Ethnology. The first collection consists of Aboriginal artifacts collected between the 1920s and 1960s and focuses on the burial customs and tombs of prehistoric Taiwan.
The collections in the Exhibition Hall of Ethnology date from 1895 and were moved to NTU when it opened in 1928. To promote ethnological research, two Japanese anthropologists systematically collected specimens including clothing, woodcarving, ceramics, daily utensils and ceremonial objects of Taiwan's Aboriginal tribes, which are on display.
On the first floor of the Life Science Building, the Museum of Zoology contains more than 100 mounted specimens and skeletons of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. The museum currently features a special exhibit, A New Experience of Life Science, and displays toothed whales, baleen whales and Asian elephants - all accompanied by the sounds made by these giants.
A bronze statue of a farmer points the way to the Agricultural Exhibition Hall. Opened in 1964, the hall is as much a tribute to Taiwan's agricultural progress as it is a museum. It is also a worthy stop for plant lovers as it shows in detail the diversity of plants and trees found on NTU's sprawling campus.
The Exhibition Hall of Geological Collections houses a rich collection of the island's fossils, minerals and rock samples as well as specimens collected and purchased from other countries. The museum features a special exhibit about hokutolite, the only mineral in the world named after a place in Taiwan (it is the Japanese pronunciation of Beitou).
The mineral was assumed to have radioactive properties - Nobel laureate and former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) wrote his master's thesis on the topic - and was used as part of linear accelerator experiments in the department of physics. Highlights of the research and Taiwan's first accelerator can be found at the Heritage Hall of Physics.
Though the Insect Museum and Herbarium of National Taiwan University will not open to the public until next year, enthusiasts can still get an idea of what to expect from the displays at the Chuan Lyu Hall.
The prehistoric artifacts, minerals, fossils, specimens of plants, animals and insects, combined with the variety of laboratory instruments and equipment will interest a wide variety of scholars and laypeople. Taken together, they provide an in-depth look at the development of NTU's sciences and humanities over the past century.
What: National Taiwan University Museums (臺灣大學博物館)
Where: National Taiwan University, 1, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路四段1號)
On the Net: www.museum.ntu.edu.tw provides Chinese and English maps and hours of operation.
For more information: (02) 3366-3810
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