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The National Museum of History (hereinafter referred to as the Museum) was established in 1955. It originated from the visionary perspective of Mr. Chi-yun Chang, the Minister of Education at that time, who recognized the importance of social education. Modeled after the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the Museum was the first in the national museum cluster built within the Taipei Botanical Garden, named “Nanhai Academy” due to its proximity to Nanhai Rd. The Museum (then called the “National Museum of History and Art ”) was inaugurated on December 4th within the garden, with Mr. Tsun-peng Pao serving as its first director. The official opening took place on March 12, 1956. On October 10, 1957, it assumed its present name. Subsequently, the National Central Library, National Taiwan Science Education Center, National Education Research Data Archive , and National Taiwan Arts Education Center were established, collectively known as the “Nanhai Five Museums ,” playing a significant role in social education.

Initially, the Museum had no collection. In 1956, the Ministry of Education allocated artifacts returned from post-war Japan and those from the Henan Museum, laying the crucial foundation for the Museum’s collection. Over the years, through government allocations, enthusiastic donations, purchases, and civilian excavations, the collection has grown to over 50,000 items, categorized into 19 types of artifacts, including Chinese paintings, calligraphy, Western paintings, jade, ceramics, and more. The collection includes a diverse range of items, such as prehistoric colored pottery, Shang and Zhou oracle bones, bronze vessels, Tang Dynasty tri-colored ceramics, stone-carved Buddhist sculptures, jade artifacts, early Republican-era furniture and puppetry, contemporary calligraphy, paintings, and more. It encompasses a variety of styles, spanning both ancient and modern times, and is rich in both folk and daily life elements.

The original building of the Museum was a Japanese-style wooden structure, initially constructed as the “Reception Hall ” for the Taiwan Promotion Association in 1916 during the Japanese colonial period. Later, it served as the exhibition hall for the Government-General of Taiwan. In 1955, the government transferred it to become the building for the Museum. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the building underwent several large and small-scale expansions and renovations, transforming into today’s traditional Northern Palace-style structure made of reinforced concrete. Additionally, this architectural transformation reflects the cultural policies of the post-war Chinese revitalization. In 2007, it was officially designated and registered as a “Historical Building” by the Taipei City Government. Beginning in 2013, to meet operational and safety needs, the Museum actively sought approval for the “National Museum of History Upgrade and Development Plan.” After approval, the restoration and reuse project began in March 2019, aiming to create a museum space that meets contemporary exhibition, service, and administrative needs. It retained the original architectural features of “color painting” and “glazed roof tiles.” Incorporating both new and traditional construction methods, the project was completed in early 2024, and the museum reopened, presenting the National Museum of History with a new and modern appearance. For many Taiwanese individuals who care about culture and the arts, the Museum not only preserves precious artifacts and rich humanistic landscapes but is also an essential cultural asset with abundant memories, deep emotions, and a crystallization of the collective memory.

On May 20, 2012, in conjunction with organizational restructuring, the Museum was placed under the Ministry of Culture, strengthening its connection with Taiwan’s social and cultural scenes. It has become a crucial platform in Taiwan’s art scene, aligning itself with the global community. As a national-level museum established in post-war Taiwan, the Museum has actively expanded its initiatives under every director since its opening. Keeping pace with the times, it has followed a historical trajectory of creation, development, transformation, and modernization. Each director has organized various classic exhibitions, offering diverse cultural perspectives in alignment with contemporary trends for the public over the years. This has allowed the Museum to witness the development and transformation of Taiwan’s museum industry. In the future, the Museum will continue to delve into Taiwan’s art and cultural development, actively integrating resources, with the aim of becoming the base for understanding Taiwan’s modern and contemporary social, cultural, and artistic history for everyone in the world. It seeks to enhance Taiwan’s visibility and participation in the international community, creating new values for Taiwan’s social, artistic, and cultural scenes, and striving to realize its vision of being a “museum contributing to the understanding of the development of Taiwan’s modern and contemporary social and cultural history.”