Thu, Sep 12, 2019 - Page 13 News List

History museum to get facelift

The National Museum of History is undergoing a three-year renovation that will see its facilities and purpose modernized

By Kayleigh Madjar  /  Staff reporter

Of course, the grand jewel of this rebranding will be the renovated museum itself, which is projected to open at the end of 2021.


With modernized amenities, thematic floors, a newly-dug international conference hall and more space with the staff and storage moved off site, Liao envisions a “kind of rebirth or metamorphosis” that can bring together the two parts of the museum’s collection.

“I want a permanent exhibition at the National Museum of History that can represent Taiwan. Not only Chinese culture, because we have different cultures,” he said, describing his hopes for the new third floor named after the massive collaborative painting Formosa Evergreen (寶島長春).

While the museum will still feature its treasured sancai (三彩, polychrome) pottery and bronzes, the plan is to place them alongside a carefully curated collection to provide a more comprehensive vision of Taiwan that includes Indigenous people, different genders, migrant groups and others who are also part of Taiwanese history.

“My mission is not to divide things, but to put things together. Not to mix them up, but connect things... Because this society has different cultures and we mix things together,” Liao said.

In the meantime, the museum’s artifacts will not entirely be hidden away in storage. To solve the practical issue of space and in the spirit of connection, the museum has partnered with various institutions, including the National Palace Museum and Academia Sinica, to conduct research and their own exhibitions.

Notably, the Henan bronzes can be viewed at Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology until they are returned to the museum, while the new Tainan Art Museum is presenting Formosa Evergreen until Oct. 13. This year alone, the museum is holding 12 exhibitions at other institutions nationwide, while five are so far on the docket for next year.

Even after the museum itself reopens, part of it will have to wait even longer. Experts believe that artifacts are buried beneath the museum, a theory supported by finds workers are unearthing as they dig the new MRT line. The underground conference hall is expected to face similar delays as archeologists carry out excavation work, but Liao is excited to turn the delay into another opportunity.

“There will be some kind of living museum in front of our museum,” he said, laughing as he envisioned visitors peering over the side of a pit and watching archeologists at work.

The two guardian lions that flank the museum’s entrance — perhaps the only in the world to protect a national museum — will remain where they are during the renovation. The first director ordered them built after they appeared to him in a dream, promising to safeguard his museum. They now stand behind wooden boards, themselves protected from the construction happening around them.

Once revealed, the museum will highlight their story as part of a larger narrative about how many of its artifacts are rooted in the struggles over Taiwanese history. Yet the original mission they represent — “protectors of artifacts, promoters of culture” (文物的保護者, 文化的發揚者) — is to remain the same.

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