An 87-year-old institution, Ming Chwan Junior High School in Keelung City’s Renai District (仁愛), is not only renowned for its history, but also for the variety of decades-old animal specimens that it proudly displays.
The school’s students are able to observe up close the more than 40 types of well-preserved animal specimens on exhibit at the school. The specimens range from protected animals such as Formosan black bears, Formosan blue magpies and Swinhoe’s pheasants to more common animals such as Formosan hares, Formosan Reeve’s muntjacs and hawks.
Former equipment section chief Chen Chun-cheng (陳俊成), who started working at the institution in 1989, said he was told by a senior colleague that the school’s rich collection of specimens was procured between 1951 and 1959 with money lent by the US government.
“One must properly preserve these legacies passed down by our forebears,” Chen quoted his colleague as saying when the latter handed him the keys to the cabinet with many transparent containers storing the “treasures.”
Chen said the school also had samples of various animals and organs preserved in formaldehyde. They were great teaching aids that helped students to better understand animals’ physical structure by comparing the specimens with images in their biology textbooks.
In an effort to protect the delicate samples from damage, a fundraising drive was held in 1998 by the then-school principal Lo Hui-chieh (駱惠傑), who subsequently entrusted a number of professors from National Taiwan Ocean University to do routine maintenance work on the specimens, Chen said.
The school’s acting principal, Cheng Chih-feng (鄭志峰), said that students currently have access to a variety of DVDs introducing them to nature and its creatures, but they could not compare to closely observing animal samples.
Saying it was “awesome” for the school to boast a Formosan black bear specimen, a ninth-grader, surnamed Chen, said that he was amazed to see the stuffed bear in his first biology class at the school.