Introduction to the Memorial Museum
Located at the corner of a building lot, the museum stands at a distance from the road, leaving space for a sidewalk and garden beds. The building's two wings meet at a perpendicular angle, giving it an L-shaped layout. Facing the intersection of Quanzhou Street and Nanhai Road, the carriage porch (kurumayose in Japanese) serves as the main entrance to the building, guiding visitors through the entryway, hall (hiroma) and staircase (kaidanshitsu). This area serves as the major passageway for foot traffic within the building, while the stairwells in each of the building's wings serve as secondary passageways for the flow of people.
With the building designed so that a distance is kept from the road, and its breadth and depth being in progressive proportion (marche), a spatial experience is thus created for all visitors, who will find the architecture reveals more detail and clarity as they draw closer.
The museum building was completed in 1931, when Taiwan was still under Japanese rule. With the passage of time and the transfer of political power, the building has continued to play an important role in Taiwan's history.
The Taiwan Education Association Building: Taiwan's window to the world of modern art
During the Japanese colonial period, the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan founded the Taiwan Education Association in order to facilitate the implementation of modern education. In April 1931, Ide Kaoru, an architect from the Building and Repairs section of the Office of the Governor-General, was authorized to design a building for the Taiwan Education Association. After its completion, the building became an important venue for public speeches, educational achievement showcases, film production and screenings, and art exhibitions. For Taiwanese society under Japanese rule, it was not only the first modern exhibition center for art and cultural activities on the island, but also a significant channel for dialogue between Taiwan and the rest of the world in the field of modern art.
The Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition, organized by the Taiwan Education Association, was regarded as one of the most important annual events for the Taiwanese art scene at the time. Prestigious artists who are still well-known today, such as Chen Cheng-po, Liao Chi-chun, Yang San-lang, Yen Shui-long, Liu Chi-hsiang, Hong Rui-lin, Ran In-ting, Chen Chih-chi, Guo Xuehu, Chen Jin, Lin Yushan, Li Mei-shu, and Chen Jing-hui, received critical acclaim for their artistic excellence in the Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition before traveling to Japan or the Western world for further studies.
The architect of the museum building was Ide Kaoru, who was born in Gifu, Japan and graduated from the Department of Architecture at the Tokyo Imperial University in 1906. The following year, he joined the Tatsuno-Kasai Architectural Firm. In 1910, he traveled to Taiwan to assist Matsunosuke Moriyama in the construction of a new office building for the Governor-General. In 1914, he was promoted to Construction Director for the "Governor-General of Taiwan Office Building New Construction Project." In 1919, he became the director of the Building and Repairs section at the Office of the Governor-General and worked in this role until he retired in July 1940. During this period, he was in charge of many important construction projects in Taiwan. Ide Kaoru attached great importance to the relationship between a building and its surrounding environment, and often used reinforced concrete as a construction material to withstand earthquakes, termites, and other natural disasters. His representative works include the Taihoku Saiwai-cho Church (built in 1916, currently known as the Chi-Nan Presbyterian Church), the Kenkou Shinto Shrine (originally built in 1930 at the location of the current Nanhai Academy, but removed after the end of the Second World War), the Taiwan Education Association Building (built in 1930), and the Taihoku Public Hall (built in 1936, currently known as Zhongshan Hall). Ide Kaoru died of illness in 1944 in Taihoku (Taipei).
The Taiwan Provincial Assembly - A historical site of significance to the February 28 Incident
On August 29, 1945, the Nationalist Government appointed Chen Yi as the Chief Executive of Taiwan Province. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Provincial Assembly was convened in accordance with the Taiwan Province Legislative Organization Establishment Plan at the Taiwan Education Association Building, which was used as a meeting place and office for members of the Assembly. The outbreak of the February 28 Incident impacted many of the provincial assembly's 30 members, including Wang Tien-teng, who died after being arrested, Lin Lien-chung, who went missing, and Lin Ri-gao and Ma You-yeh, who were both incarcerated. This building has thus become an important historical monument bearing witness to the February 28 Incident and the Taiwanese people's post-war pursuit of democracy. In 1949, the building was taken into possession by the Taiwan Provincial Education Association, which allowed the Taiwan Provincial Assembly and the subsequent Provisional Taiwan Provincial Assembly to continue to use it for free.
The United States Information Agency in Taiwan – facilitating Taiwan's democratization and fostering the development of Taiwan's modern art
In 1959, the year after the Provisional Taiwan Provincial Assembly moved elsewhere, the United States Information Agency in Taiwan moved into this building. Over the next 20 years, this site became a vital channel for Taiwanese people to receive information from the West during a period of increased tension in the Taiwan Strait. In 1979, the year Taiwan and the United States severed their diplomatic relations, the cultural, educational, and commercial organizations that were originally affiliated with the Embassy of the United States in Taiwan were turned into semi-official "associations" or "centers," continuing exchange activities between the two countries. The United States Information Agency thus changed its name to the American Cultural Center. At the end of 1991, the American Cultural Center was asked to change premises by the Provincial Education Department, which intended to build high-rises on the land under the Nanhai Urban Renewal Project. The plans were later shelved due to objections from cultural circles. The building was then briefly leased to the General Association of the Scouts of China before the American Cultural Center returned to the site in June 1993. That same year, the building was listed as a Class III Historic Site.
The United States Information Agency in Taiwan not only provided official data relating to the United States government, as well as information on American culture and studying abroad in the United States, but also allowed parts of the building to be used for cultural events and arts exhibitions, which were extremely beneficial to Taiwan's cultural circles in the relatively closed-off society of the 1960s. Even today, many artists and writers still discuss the legacy of this institution. The United States Information Agency in Taiwan thus became an important promoter of Taiwan's modern art movement after the Taiwan Education Association first started organizing exhibitions at the same venue during the Japanese colonial period.
National 228 Memorial Museum – a milestone in the movement to right the historical wrongs of the February 28 Incident
In July 2006, the Executive Yuan approved the location of the National 228 Memorial Museum. The official opening of the National 228 Memorial Museum on February 28, 2011 signified a new milestone in the effort to right the historical wrongs the February 28 Incident.
The history behind the establishment of the National 228 Memorial Museum
The Memorial Foundation of 228 was established by the Executive Yuan after the passage of the February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act. According to Article 1 of the Act, the foundation is tasked with compensating the victims of the incident, educating the public, healing historical wounds, and promoting ethnic harmony. Other duties include organizing public events, carrying out investigations and research into the February 28 Incident, restoring the reputation of the victims, and promoting peace and harmony in Taiwanese society. In view of this, on April 24, 2001, the foundation's board of directors resolved to set up a team to work toward the establishment of a national museum dedicated to the February 28 Incident, which would be responsible for turning the matters authorized by the February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act into reality.
In August 2003, the Executive Yuan issued a directive letter ordering the Memorial Foundation to prepare and plan in advance for task changes after it finished compensating the victims. After two years, another directive letter was issued to endorse the founding of a "national memorial museum for the February 28 Incident" and to instruct that the museum should be planned and set up as a commemorative, educational, and historical/cultural venue. At a meeting regarding the establishment of a national memorial museum for the February 28 Incident that was hosted by the Executive Yuan and attended by related ministries and departments on July 5, 2006, the following conclusion was made: "In the research conducted by the Memorial Foundation of 228, the original Taiwan Education Association Building has been recommended by the families of the victims due to its historical relevance and cultural and educational significance to the February 28 Incident. A national memorial museum for the February 28 Incident is to be set up by the Ministry of Education and its operation and management is to be authorized to the Memorial Foundation of 228."
Having been through a third, fourth and fifth term board of directors and six years of intensive preparations with support from the government and the wider community, the National 228 Memorial Museum was officially established on February 28, 2007. That April, the Ministry of Education began renovations on the historic building that had been selected to house the museum. In September 2009, the renovations were completed and the site was turned over to the Ministry of Interior, before being transferred to the Memorial Foundation of 228. In 2010, a historic building reuse project was implemented on the future site of the memorial museum. The project was finished on January 16, 2011, and the museum was officially opened to the public on February 28, 2011.
The rationale for the museum's location: the building's cultural context at the time of construction and historical relevance to the February 28 Incident
The building where the National 228 Memorial Museum is currently located was once called the Taiwan Education Association Building during the Japanese colonial period. Although the building was finished in the 1930s, a decade when the Great Depression impacted the United States and the rest of the world, the architectural landscape in Taiwanese cities was increasingly influenced by the modernist style that was prevalent at the time. Other famous buildings that were built in the same decade include New York's Empire State Building (1931) and Fallingwater (1935), both of which are still regarded as architectural masterpieces. This global trend of modernization formed the background of the impending conflict between modernized Taiwanese society and the feudal, autocratic ideas that were forced on it by the new Chinese Nationalist regime, and was also one of the major factors leading to the outbreak of the February 28 Incident. Today, as we reflect upon the incident, the historic building where the National 228 Memorial Museum is located can help us revisit the atmosphere of the time when the February 28 Incident took place.
The Second World War ended with Japanese emperor Hirohito announcing Japan's surrender to the Allies on August 15, 1945. Following the creation of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly, the grand, spacious Taiwan Education Association Building was soon chosen as the meeting place for its members. The thirty members of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly, including Huang Chao-chin, Li Wanju, Kuo Kuo-chi, Lin Hsien-tang, and Wang Tien-teng, all submitted questions to the Chief Executive, Chen Yi, at this venue. However, despite being the highest legislature on the island, the Taiwan Provincial Assembly was overshadowed by the Chief Executive, who was much more powerful than the previous Governor-Generals of Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period. The situation was worsened by the fact that the members of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly could only exercise oversight via parliamentary interpellation, or questioning sessions.
Without any legal power to pass resolutions, the Taiwan Provincial Assembly could not provide checks and balances against Chen Yi. Moreover, the impacts of the Chinese Civil War and the Nationalist Government's ignorance of parliamentary democracy meant that the establishment of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly was merely a perfunctory gesture to satisfy the Taiwanese people's desire for self-rule. After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident in 1947, of the 30 members of the Provincial Assembly, two were incarcerated and two went missing, while the remainder were either wanted by the government or temporarily left politics, leaving the Taiwan Provincial Assembly functionally dissolved. This historical context of the February 28 Incident and the building's historical and cultural significance are both major reasons behind the choice of the National 228 Memorial Museum's location.
Without doubt, the establishment of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly was an important testament to the Taiwanese people's post-war pursuit of democratic politics. Taiwanese social elites' expectation of a bright future for the island and their fervent pursuit of democracy is evidenced by the fact that there were 1,180 people registered as candidates in the election of the 30-member Taiwan Provincial Assembly. In addition, the United States Information Agency in Taiwan also played an important historical role in introducing knowledge of Western freedom, democracy, art, and culture to an island ruled by martial law, and enriched the significance of this building in terms of the heritage preservation, re-narration and re-utilization of the site.
There is a thematic exhibition room on the first floor, which introduces the history of the museum's architecture and showcases the vicissitudes of Taiwan's history over the past hundred years.
On the second floor of the north wing, there is a permanent exhibition on the February 28 Incident which combines traditional displays and a digital interactive medium to provide an overview of the incident using historical data and records.
In the Grand Exhibition Room, located on the second floor of the south wing, there is a special exhibition area reserved for the display of research and artistic works relating to the February 28 Incident, the themes and content of which are updated periodically.
The third floor is an art and cultural space which presents information and original works related to Taiwanese history. There is also a multi-functional space for small gatherings and public events.
Preservation of historical artifacts
In order to fulfill the National 228 Memorial Museum's mission of providing historical education regarding the February 28 Incident, the museum is committed to archiving historical artifacts. The museum works to collect, investigate, archive, manage, display and promote a range of historical items related to the February 28 Incident. These include documents, files, photos, videos, publications, artworks and folk-art pieces.
Raising public awareness
Raising public awareness allows the right ideas to take root in people's minds, and its target audience includes students, teachers and members of the general public. To achieve this, the museum has held training camps for teachers, high school and college students, as well as university student society events and community education events. In the future, the museum will also organize a variety of educational materials that will correspond to our current exhibitions and events for different types of audiences.
Interinstitutional and international exchanges
In addition to data- and experience-sharing and administrative collaboration with other Taiwanese human rights organizations, research institutes and academic research centers, the interinstitutional exchanges that we have undertaken also include co-hosting educational training sessions, such as education camps. We are also active in liaising with international human rights groups and related organizations to exchange operational experiences and share histories of human rights tragedies, so that the global visibility of the February 28 Incident can be increased and the vision of the National 228 Memorial Museum can be further expanded.