The Taipei Astronomical Museum is undertaking a three-year renovation project starting in November in hopes of boosting its dwindling popularity.
The project is estimated to cost about NT$580 million (US$19 million) and is to be carried out in two stages, according to the museum, which expects the makeover to help increase annual visitor numbers from about 600,000 now to more than 1 million.
The first phase, set to begin in November, would see the addition of a new exhibit called “Space City” to the Cosmic Adventure Section on the fourth floor. When completed, visitors will be able to enjoy magnificent views of outer space — created through film, lighting and special effects — while traveling along a 200m track on an indoor train. The facility is set to reopen in October next year.
The second phase of renovation is scheduled to start next year and wrap up in December 2017, during which the first three floors of the museum will be closed to the public.
Three more exhibits — Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life, Astronomical Research in Taiwan and Children’s Section — are to be added to the current nine permanent ones.
“The museum has never undergone a major renovation since it was opened to the public in 1997. Although we have endeavored to share the latest astronomy news on the museum’s Web site and routinely update the information on its exhibition display boards, we have received many complaints about its outdated facilities,” museum curator Chen An-li (陳岸立) said.
However, the cost of renovating the museum has drawn a mixed response among Taipei City councilors.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) said that compared with the renovation costs for the 50,000m2 Taipei Children’s Recreation Center (NT$2 billion) and the 15,000m2 Taipei Zoo’s Tropical Rainforest House (NT$380 million), it was unreasonable for the science museum to spend NT$580 million on a 4,500m2 area.
“To attract visitors, the museum needs to do more than just upgrade its hardware. It should also enhance its knowledge in astronomy and beef up its promotional efforts,” Yen said.
In response, Chen said the average renovation cost per square meter for science museums overseas was between NT$100,000 and NT$150,000, but the Taipei museum would only be spending about NT$80,000 per square meter.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lee Chin-yuan (李慶元) backed the museum, saying it was in desperate need of a makeover if it did not want to continue losing visitors because of its outdated exhibits.
KMT Taipei City Councilor Wang Cheng-de (王正德) said it was good that the museum decided to “make modifications to the suit while wearing it,” referring to how parts of the museum would remain open to the public during the renovation period.