The National Archives Administration has proposed an amendment to the Presidential and Vice Presidential Records and Artifacts Act (總統副總統文物管理條例) to clear out thousands of records and gifts taking up space in its warehouse.
Academia Historica, which is tasked with managing presidential and vice presidential records and artifacts, said it has drafted a revision to the act, which was promulgated in January 2004.
The proposed amendment, which is pending legislative review, stipulates that presidential and vice presidential gifts “be classified and then be written off from the inventory for disposal or given away to museums, other government agencies or charity organizations,” Academia Historica said.
The act stipulates that gifts worth more than NT$3,000 given to presidents and vice presidents during their tenures have to be turned over to the national archive.
There are more than 12,000 gifts in the archive’s storage, Academia Historica said.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) received about 6,000 gifts during his eight-year tenure from 2008 to last year, and his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), received about 4,000 gifts, Academia Historica’s collection division chief Hsu Hsiu-jung (許秀容) said.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has received 117 gifts within 42 days of taking office on May 20 last year, Hsu added.
Items gifted to Tsai include a painting of an eagle named after herself and an air purifier for the cat-loving president, Hsu said.
Some of the gifts cannot be stored for long periods of time because they would decay, Hsu said, adding that in such a situation, the cost of preserving them would be higher than the benefit of keeping them.
For example, a leopard fur Ma received from Swaziland is beyond the institute’s professional ability to maintain for a long time, Hsu said.
There should be regulations that allow Academia Historica to determine whether presidential and vice presidential gifts are worthy of long-term storage, Hsu said.
If not, the national archive should have the right to dispose of them, she added.
The gifts are considered national property and cannot be sold, but can be given to museums for exhibition, to groups advocating socially disadvantaged people or to government agencies that might have use of them.
However, if seriously damaged, the items would be destroyed, Hsu said, referring to a clause in the proposed amendment.