Core Research Plan
The mission of the National Museum of Taiwan History is not limited to merely collecting and preserving historical materials. The Museum's responsibilities also extend to seeking out and studying historical materials, publishing research findings, as well as promoting and improving research into Taiwan history. Since its establishment the Museum has identified three major research topics: Taiwan foreign relations, interaction between ethnic groups in Taiwan, and modernization. These three core topics lie at the center of all the Museum’s exhibition and research plans. The Museum's work includes publishing academic research, releasing databases and websites, and organizing conferences and workshops. Through interdisciplinary research projects, publications, and events that focus on the study of history, the Museum hopes to encourage society in general to learn more about history and the study of Taiwan.
The Survey, Collection, and Translation of Taiwanese Historical Materials from Overseas
In support of research into Taiwan foreign relations and ethnic group interaction, the Museum has made the collection and organization of Taiwanese historical materials and documents located overseas an important priority of its work. It is hoped that the Museum will become known for its efforts to collect and organize overseas materials, and that the Museum will eventually become an important hub and resource center for the collection and publication of these materials.
The Museum's Overseas Taiwan-Related Materials Survey and Collection Project began in 2002. In terms of materials in foreign languages, the Museum now boasts a fairly comprehensive collection of Taiwan-related maps and books published in the West between the 16th and 19th centuries. In the future, the Museum will continue seeking out and collecting Taiwan-related materials written in foreign languages. The Museum will also continue to broaden its search overseas for relevant materials, with a long-term plan to collect and preserve all extant historical materials relating to Taiwan that can be found overseas.
The key part of the current collection is books recording and researching Taiwan that began appearing in the West in the late 19th century. The writers of these books included academics, missionaries, and journalists. These books represent the results of Western observations and studies of Taiwan. They played an important role in kick-starting research into Taiwan history in the 20th century. The Museum is now actively planning the translation into Chinese and publication of Western books on Taiwan written between the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
Collecting and Promoting Public History Materials
The Museum's ambition is to become a museum for all people in Taiwan. In addition to promoting exhibitions and educational work, the Museum is also dedicated to the study of public history, observing the experiences and detailing the lives of ordinary Taiwanese. Their stories and ideas, often forgotten and overlooked in historical writing and records, are now given a place in the museum. On the basis of a broad range of collected historical materials, we try to understand, interpret, and weave a richer and more diverse tapestry of history to share with the public.
Current Focuses of Our Work
Women of Taiwan
The Museum has been active in collecting historical materials relating to Taiwanese women and in presenting various images of Taiwan women from different stages of history. From the family to the professional world, from physical bondage to liberation, a diverse range of women-related topics and descriptions are included in the Museum's Women of Taiwan website. Rich imagery is used in the hope of representing to the fullest the cultural characteristics of Taiwanese women. The Museum also collects audio-visual materials related to Taiwanese women, integrating them with existing resources. The continued recording and organization and application of audio and visual records are an example of these efforts, as are topical exhibitions and publications. The results of cultural artifact assessments have encouraged work such as the recording of oral histories, enriching historical material collections related to Taiwanese women. In addition to driving further research it is hoped that the results of this work can be a foundation for women's studies in Taiwan, part of a broader vision for a society with greater gender equality.
Several diaries have come into the Museum's collection by chance, such as Fan Yuanlin's Kaohsiung Airport Diary collected in 2005; Lu Jiying's diary, collected as part of the Lu Dongyuan family artifacts in 2009; the diary of Hsu Tiantsui, a pre-war landowner and township chief, in 2013; the diary of Cheng Shusheng, an elementary school principal in the early post-war period; and the diary of Chen Huaicheng, mayor of Lukang between 1916 and 1932. These diaries are from all classes of Taiwanese society, and will likely become valuable reference material for historical research after collation and publication.
After they were first digitized in 2011, the Museum began regular analysis sessions of Lu Jiying's diaries. Academic colleagues from the Museum and other institutions began reading and studying the diaries. Their findings have been discussed in academic conferences and in published papers, with excellent preliminary results. The diaries have proven helpful in understanding agriculture and social education improvement movements in rural Taiwan. In addition to the continued analysis of the diaries in the collection, the Museum also plans to establish a diary database for public reference and use in research.
Sound recording technology has seen over a century of development in Taiwan. From vinyl records and cassette tapes to the digital age, audio technology has recorded the political, economic, and cultural development of Taiwan society. It has also become an ideal entry point for the modern public to familiarize themselves with Taiwan’s culture and history. In addition to expanding and organizing the existing vinyl collection, the Museum is also collaborating with private institutions that have been active in archiving audio recordings to collect, preserve and organize historical materials in audio form. A broad range of topics are related to audio materials, falling into five major categories including pop music, traditional opera, politics and society, cultural documentation, and everyday consumer life. Digital transfers of records and tapes have been included in the Museum's research resource platform, and a system has been put in place to make these files available to the public for use in research and other activities.
Popularization and Application of Historical Geographical Information
Geographical concepts are the basis of historical knowledge, so the Museum has a large collection of map materials. Publications such as Formosa and Measuring Taiwan are devoted to maps from the 17th to 19th centuries, as well as maps from the Japanese colonial era. A Geographic Information System (GIS) has also been established to facilitate the analysis and presentation of mapping data.
Based on the above foundation, the Museum began to produce and publish historical maps in 2013, advancing the visualization of Taiwanese history. The results will become teaching materials for history classes. The information will also become part of the Museum's GIS, making related research more accurate and making it possible to develop new ways of understanding history through geographical data. The GIS will become a new destination for civics, geography, and history education.
Large-Scale Editing and Organizing of Historical Materials
Taiwan Historical Materials Collection
The Taiwan Historical Materials Collection is a series of books that form a basis for research into Taiwan history and culture. Combining government resources and private work, it is an important organizational project in promoting the understanding of Taiwanese history. The project began with the organization of government documents and local gazetteers from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, eventually integrating public and private documents including contracts, private writings, notes, and letters. Currently published works in the series include the Collected Files of Taiwan in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (5 volumes of 120 books); A Collection of Decrees on Taiwan Relations in the Qing Dynasty (1 volume of 9 books); Collected Gazetteers of Taiwan in the Qing Dynasty (3 volumes of 34 books), and Collected Contract Documents from the Taiwan Governor-General's Office Archives (3 volumes of 35 books). The publication of this series compensates for past shortcomings in Taiwan-related historical materials. Not only are the books an important cultural asset for the country, they also represent a crucial step for historical research on Taiwan. These books are also the most authentic historical materials available for members of the public who want to learn more about Taiwan.
Newspapers and Magazines from the Japanese Colonial Era
With the aim to better preserve important documents and organize available information from Taiwan's earlier periods, the Museum has embarked on the large-scale publishing of historical materials. In addition to locating and collecting currently available materials, the Museum has also collaborated with other institutions to organize and republish newspapers and magazines from the Japanese colonial era. The Tainan News and the Taiwan Daily News, both important newspapers from the Japanese colonial era with close ties to Tainan's local history, culture, resources and people, have been republished. Extant materials on the New Taiwan Citizen, published by the only media outlet founded and operated by Taiwanese during the Japanese colonial era, will also be collated, edited, and published. We hope that the organization and study of these media materials will allow us to construct broader historical overviews. As these forgotten historical details resurface, they will allow richer interpretations in Taiwan studies.
Surveying, Collecting, and Studying Historical Artifacts
Surveying and Collecting Historical Objects
Objects form the basis of a museum. Besides historical documents, historical objects are the most important materials in a museum. The survey and collection of historical objects is a top priority in the completion of a comprehensive account of Taiwan's historical context.
With the aim of building a more complete collection, the Museum engages in surveying and collection of objects year on year in a systematic fashion, seeking objects that are historically valuable and a good fit with the Museum's mission. Objects from the Dutch Formosa era to the modern period are all considered for the collection, including books, documents, objects from daily life, images, and audio recordings. Objects that illustrate Taiwan's diverse ethnic groups, foreign relations, and modernization processes are given priority.
As for Taiwan-related objects and materials that have found their way overseas, the Museum works to obtain them through purchasing, copying, or as donations. Most of the Museum's extensive collection of maps, historical foreign language materials, and documents and films from the Japanese colonial era were obtained from overseas collectors. Through the Museum's efforts, historical objects from all over the world can be preserved and maintained, making the National Museum of Taiwan History a treasure trove of historical objects and allowing the world a unique window on Taiwan history.
Historical Objects Research
Collection and research are two sides of the same coin. The management of donations, purchases, and collections requires a foundation of solid research to be effective and efficient. Once an object is added to the collection, more research is also needed to expand academic resources.
The Museum's study of its collection goes beyond traditional appreciation of rare relics, and also differs from material culture studies undertaken by anthropologists. We promote and practice an object-based approach to collecting and studying history, exploring the relationship between specific objects and their greater historical, cultural, and social contexts, to achieve a broader view of Taiwanese history than past researchers.
Current research of objects in the collection, such as potteries and porcelains, receipts, maps, contracts, vinyl records, popular periodicals, commemorative stamps, and diaries, extend and expand the possibilities and diverse forms of material culture research. Through surveying, collecting, and organizing Taiwan-related historical artifacts, the Museum is expanding its material culture research efforts; through conferences, workshops, and seminars, the Museum takes part in academic conversations regarding Taiwan history and establishes a unique position for itself in the research world.
Academic Research and Promotion
Since its opening in 2011, the National Museum of Taiwan History has published History Taiwan, a bi-annual academic journal published in May and November each year. The journal is a place for experts and academics, regardless of affiliation with the Museum, to publish academic research. In 2014, the journal's editorial team was restructured and formal calls for submission were made outside of the Museum. A submission topic is chosen ahead of time for each issue. Currently, the journal mostly publishes academic writing on Taiwan history and museology, including theses, translations and descriptions of historical materials and objects, book reviews, forums, and field studies. Submissions are evaluated according to rigorous academic standards, with double-blind peer review and a professional editing and revision process, ensuring that the journal publishes only high-quality scholarship.
The museum has also implemented a long-term plan to publish academic monographs, seeking to encourage the academic study of Taiwanese history, in particular research related to the Museum's collections. So far, it has made external calls for submissions, established an editorial team, and invited academics and experts from both the Museum and other institutions to serve as editors. The editing process is rigorous and precise, with an emphasis on images accompanying text. Several monographs have now been published, furthering our aim to promote the study of Taiwanese history and increase the visibility of the Museum's studies of its own collections.
Academic Conferences and Workshops
With the aim of encouraging research in Taiwanese history and fostering engagement with the academic community at home and abroad, the Museum has engaged in academic exchanges since the preparation for its founding began. It has held conferences on museology and Taiwanese history, and organized academic conferences related to its mission both on its own and in collaboration with other institutions.
In view of its three core research topics of foreign relations, ethnic group interaction, and modernization, the Museum has organized a number of academic conferences on Taiwanese social interaction after contact with the West. The Museum also continues with a dialogue that explores the connection between studies of its collections and current research in material cultures, aiming to place the Museum's collections on a deeper theoretical basis. These efforts both further research into Taiwan history and enhance museum operations on a practical level.
Publications, forums, and conferences will continue to be the channels through which the Museum facilitates academic conversations and exchanges, encouraging research in Taiwanese history to become more in-depth. A major priority is to nurture new talent in Taiwanese historical studies, working with graduate students in the fields of history and social sciences to develop abilities in historical documentation and field study. The Museum has held workshops in this since 2007. In past years, these workshops have become an important channel for engagement between the Museum and young students. Based in Tainan, the Museum's fieldwork brings it close to the land and the people. By pursuing a single line of research, and then exploring topics such as group migration and interaction and organizing the Tainan Research Forum, the Museum has investigated many of the possible aspects local history research may take.
Academic Resource Platform
In the digital age, library management is not only about the collection and preservation of paper documents; the management of knowledge through information technology has also become an issue deserving of attention. From museum websites, digital collections, and digital exhibits to public promotion and education, there has been a clear trend toward using the Internet and digital media in teaching and learning, and in the construction of academic resource databases. Starting in 2011, the Museum has begun to organize and collate the results of past research projects, and to embark on projects to survey overseas materials, such as the survey of Taiwanese audio and visual recordings at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and the publication of Charles Le Gendre's Notes of Travel in Formosa; to collect public historical materials, such as the Women of Taiwan website and the 100 Years of Audio website; to publish book collections of historical materials; and republish Japanese-era newspapers and magazines. With the three core topics of modernization, foreign relations, and ethnic group interaction, combined with data from field studies in southern Taiwan, the Museum is building a comprehensive database of its research projects, establishing an online digital platform to circulate data.
Taiwan History Multi-Resource Center
Writing is not the only way knowledge can be transmitted. The development of digital technology has opened up new possibilities for museums in providing educational services. The resources provided by traditional museums, including research, collections, exhibits, and education, are now available in digital form through the Cloud. These additional resources are a foundation for education and promotion. The services provided by the Museum are no longer enjoyed exclusively by people who visit in person, but by any Internet user around the world.
In the future, the Museum aims to become a multi-resource center for Taiwanese history, Through targeted user development plans, interpretation of Taiwan history will become part of the public consciousness, fulfilling the mission of promoting research and education in Taiwanese history. The Taiwan History Knowledge Base that we are creating will make a cloud-based digital museum a reality.