After the relocation of the National Government of the Republic of China to Taiwan in 1949, the Museum came under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Department of Education and its name was changed to “Taiwan Provincial Museum.” In 1961 and 1994, the Museum was closed for extensive renovations. In 1999, the Museum came under the purview of the central government and underwent a new christening as the “National Taiwan Museum.” Although its name has changed, the Museum is the only museum built in Japanese colonial era that, after wars and changes in government, remains open at its original site.
The Museum was designed by Japanese architect Ichiro Nomura and Eiichi Araki and construction was carried out by the Takaishi Group. The structure itself is reinforced concrete (RC) with load-bearing brick walls. RC was an advanced technology for early 20th-century Taiwan. The roof was constructed of cypress and covered with copper tiles.
Standing before the Museum, it seems to consist of only two stories. The base of the Museum however, is one story high, meaning that the Museum actually has three floors. Originally, administration and service space was set on the first floor and exhibitions were restricted to the second and third floors, the ceiling height of the first floor being less than the second and third floors. So for exhibitions, it was determined that the second and third floors were more suitable. The main hall at the center of the building is flanked by two exhibition halls. The colonnade and balcony were constructed on the south façade of Museum in consideration of the subtropical climate of Taipei.
With its Greek temple façade, and Pantheon-like vaulted ceiling, the Museum was constructed in the Classical style. Aside from the façade, the building can be divided into three parts: the base, the walls, and the roof. The base is raised to increase space on the first floor and lend majesty to the structure.
The walls are composed of columns, with the windows done in Renaissance style. The roof is a dome and gable construction decorated with elaborate flower and leaf patterns. These, together with the huge classical Doric hexastyle columns supporting the portico, create a solemn and sacred atmosphere From a distance, the 30-meter-high dome appears to float above the surrounding trees.
Walking into the Museum, you will find an elegant Renaissance-style hall. It is very rare in Taiwan for the interior and exterior of a building to be done in different styles, but for this building, styles were mixed, showing that the spirit of eclecticism was alive and well at the time. The main hall of the Museum is surrounded by 32 Corinthian columns whose capitals boast exquisite acanthus and volute patterns. The main staircase is also unique.
Looking up at the 16-meter high ceiling, the light spills in through the windows between the double vaults into the hall. This design is similar to that of a Gothic church where light and shadow create a sacred atmosphere. At the time the museum was built, bronze statues of Viceroy Kodama Gentaro and Chief Civil Administrator Goto Shinpei were placed in the alcoves of the lobby. A pattern combining the family coat-of-arms of the two men was also used in the stained glass and lamps, showing the commemorative purpose behind the building of the Museum.
The exterior wall is decorated with washed pebbles to imitate the feeling of stone architecture. The stairs and handrails of the interior are of marble imported from Japan. Black marble and white calcite were used on the interlaced floor. This made Taiwan a pioneer in using marble as a main building material. Splendid clay sculptures were installed around the interior doors and windows as well as in alcoves. In addition to popular European floral patterns, these sculptures also showcased Taiwanese elements such as the wax apple, banana, and star fruit.
For over a century, the Museum has been standing in front of the Taipei Railway Station, on the north-south and east-west pivotal crossroads of old Taipei. Its elegant architecture, rich collection, and unique geographical position have made the NTM an important landmark in Taipei.
In 1998, the Ministry of the Interior designated the museum as a National Historic Site. From the colonial-era Taiwan Viceroy’s Office Museum to the National Taiwan Museum today, the building has witnessed the history of Taiwan and also recorded the natural and anthropological development of this land. At the Museum, visitors can witness the tracks of development and the many splendors of Taiwanese culture, geology, flora, and fauna.
Today the Museum retains the scale it had when it opened. The collection and research continue to focus on anthropology, earth sciences, zoology, and botany that are relevant to Taiwan. Through themed exhibitions, educational activities, publications, and various cooperation plans, the Museum publicizes the role of humans in protecting the environment and the importance of biological and cultural diversity.