“Discovering Taiwan”, which opened its doors in November of last year, is a permanent exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum that draws from the Museum’s collections as well as the history and culture of the island’s indigenous populations and the institution’s Japanese founders in order to celebrate both Taiwan’s rich natural and cultural heritage and the Museum’s centenary. Featuring 265 of the most important pieces from the Museum’s anthropological, zoological, geological, paleontological and botanical collections, displayed alongside sculptural, video and sound installations by contemporary Taiwanese artists, the exhibition was designed by Studio TING as an immersive experience where Taiwan’s heritage is transformed into a conceptual landscape that visitors are invited to explore. Taking over the entire top floor of the Museum’s neoclassical building, which was inaugurated in 1908 during Japanese colonial rule and constitutes Taiwan’s first museum, the exhibition is divided into three thematic sections that reflect the building’s layout.
At the central hall, visitors are immersed into a white landscape of abstracted arboreal trees, notional rock formations and melodic wind sounds paying tribute to all those natural specimens that have been extracted in the service of collective knowledge. Titled Taiwan’s New Scopes, the corridor-like space charts the Museum’s century-old history by displaying its major findings, profiles of the scientists without whom there wouldn’t be a collection, and information about the building’s history.
The Path of Discovery in the east wing transports visitors back in time when pioneering naturalists explored the island’s virgin mountain forests for the first time. A lush green carpet, dimmed lighting, tree shadows and a chirping chorus of insects and birds, create an enveloping scenery harbouring aboriginal treasures and representative animal species, some of which are now extinct. In the midst of this disembodied forest sits a glass “log cabin” which houses a cabinet of curiosities showcasing specimens of Taiwanese biodiversity that were the first to be catalogued.
Photo © Christophe Gaubert