Thursday, January 26, 2006

National Taiwan Museum

The crowded streets of the old downtown.

On Wednesday, as I came up to Taipei for Linda Arrigo's presentation, I took the opportunity to go to the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei behind the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store, south of the train station. I try to make a point of writing on the island's many museums, fine and otherwise. This one is definitely one for the "otherwise" category.

The museum looks imposing from the outside.

Many years ago I first lived in this part of Taipei, and it remains my favorite part of the city, with its own fascinating history. There are still some old streets named for the retailing and industrial enterprises they hosted, such as Shoes Street, and the streets still have that cramped, crowded feel that the fat streets and expressways of modern vintage have spurned. For a while I lived at the old Namaste Hostel -- its building was torn down for expansion of the new train station -- and later at another hostel across Chunghsiao W Rd. That place was eliminated to make way for some kind of illegal stock exchange and bar, so I moved again a block away. It was wonderful to take my son across my old stomping grounds, and point out all the places I used to go. Knowing that he loves beef noodle, I took him to the line of beef noodle shops next to Nova there, and so naturally, he decided we had to eat at a perfectly mundane help-yourself buffet. This is why parents go prematurely gray.

My son poses in front of two 19th century locomotives.

The museum itself had plenty of exhibits, but they tended toward the non-controversial: one on the Dutch era that seemed aimed at kids...

Zeb assembles an antique map.

...we passed a pleasant moment puzzling out its features. There was another display on the aborigines, and several on nature and Taiwan, but nothing on, say, Taiwan in the 18th century, or land tenure in the Japanese period, or the rise of industry in the 1960s, or similar. It was a bland museum that aimed to please, targeting kids, I believe.

The view from the museum steps.

There was also very little in English, and nothing at all comprehensive. The museum is dirt cheap; NT$20 for adults, NT$10 for kids. The 2-28 Peace Park is right next to it, and out front there is an interesting display of cannon, and neolithic artifacts as well. If you have nothing to do on an unpromising day, you can take an hour or two out and pay it a visit, but I wouldn't put it very high on your list of priorities.

1 comment:

David said...

My office used to be a 1 minute walk away from the front of the museum :)

They had quite an interesting 'maps of Taiwan' exhibition there a few months ago, which did have a range of historical maps, but I guess that's been removed now ...