Making History: An Example from the National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan’s Cultural Preservation Initiatives

By Zu-chun Liao.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aim of this paper is to present a case study of the preservation of a town whose history and culture has been preserved through museum initiatives. Traditionally this town has been considered to be the window into Taiwan’s history. The knowledge gained through this series of photos which records the town’s history between the years 1950-1970 is valuable when protecting Taiwan’s past. Taiwan, like other colonized islands, has a mixture of cultures and this exhibit highlights the blending of trades, daily life and traditions. Since photography is subjective in efforts to gain a holistic communal perspective, the museum employed local residents both young and old, to assist in the collection, selection and design of the exhibit.
The knowledge gained from these photos of the old town of Lukang—which dates back to the Qing dynasty (around 1784)—is evident in the photos chosen for exhibition by the museum. Those exhibited, were captured by a local amateur photographer who liked to take candid snap-shots. He focused on how the people of Lukang did not separate their cultural traditions and customs from their daily lives. Since there are very few historical photos from this time period, these photos are of significant value to the museum.
This project has been in progress for over two years. In efforts to allow for greater public access, in 2009, the museum created a special exhibition. Local residents participated in the project bi-weekly, until the exhibit opened. Additionally, we wanted to educate visitors on film preservation, so the museum engaged photographers and photo conservators to showcase their processes and procedures for film preservation and conservation. During the collaboration process, these elements along with the museums research slowly revealed the town’s history from 1950 to the 1970s. However this successful exhibition was not met without its fair share of challenges. Thus, this case is an example of how local history was recreated, materialized, and presented through the cooperation of the community and the museum.

Keywords: Photo Conservation, Community Involvement, Preserving History, Lukang

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.65-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.988MB).

Dr. Zu-chun Liao

Collection Manger, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung, Taiwan

I am a collection manager at National Museum of Natural Science. I have worked here for 13 years. My collections mostly are from Taiwan but some of them are from Southwestern China and Papua New Guinea. Our collections normally were accessed through donation, purchasing, etc. Sometimes I and my colleague will collect them directly from our field works. My research interest is on the main stream culture of Taiwan and mainly focuses on heritage and folk religion. Although I am a collection manager, I also have to conduct exhibit project. The Lukang exhibit was the fifth project in my career. Those photos were collected during my field works. This exhibit was exciting because it involved community corporation and object’s interpretation.

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