In one of the few remaining structures that was standing in 1947 amid the bloodshed of the 228 Incident, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (
Comprised of photographs, artwork and artifacts, the exhibition was unveiled for the press yesterday ahead of its public debut in the National 228 Memorial Museum today. Although its education ministry-funded renovation won't be complete until 2009, the museum's lobby and second floor are fit to house the exhibition, Tu said.
"The [site of the museum] is appropriate as [this building] was standing when the first shots of the massacre rang out in Taipei. In fact, the building housed the Chinese Nationalist Party's [KMT] provincial senate at the time," he said.
The 228 Incident refers to a local uprising that actually began on Feb. 27, 1947, against the KMT government, which crushed the rebellion by killing tens of thousands of civilians.
Built in 1930 by the Japanese during their occupation of Taiwan, the building came under KMT ownership in 1945. The KMT then rented out the structure to the then US embassy in Taiwan in 1958 for its Department of Information, which became the American Cultural Center in 1977.
In 2002, the Americans moved out and the government planned to restore the building as the National 228 Memorial Museum, with its opening date coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the incident.
Inside the museum yesterday, the odor of old stone and wood served as reminders of the building's Japanese colonial roots, while cavernous halls lent the building a dark gravity befitting of a memorial to victims of murder, torture and kidnapping. A red, plush carpet led the way from a front door flanked by Greek columns up a marble staircase to the exhibition room.
"The 228 Incident was a decisive event in our history -- an event that continues to shape and influence Taiwanese society. Thus, the education ministry has played an active role in helping citizens to further understand the incident's historical significance," Tu said, referring to his ministry's funding of the museum and its exhibits.
The exhibition will visit other venues at a later date, Tu said.
The museum opens today and entrance is free from 10am to 6pm daily, except on Mondays.