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Resource nameNational Taiwan University-Taiwan Ethnological Collections in Overseas Museums

 The purposeful accumulation of material culture collections in Taiwan began roughly in the mid-19th century, when the Qing Dynasty was forced to open up the ports of Taiwan for trade and commerce with the outside world. The first westerners to arrive in Taiwan were the delegates of the British Consulate, missionaries, customs officials, foreign traders, and scientists and researchers involved in new fields of study. Back then, the westerners who came to Taiwan for trade, missionary work, exploration, warfare, or research began to focus on Taiwan as a subject for research and literature, due to a combination of factors including curiosity about foreign cultures, interest in new ethnological knowledge, collection development strategies of western museums, as well as the new invention of photography during that era. Samples of artifacts and objects were collected and photos were taken to be brought back to the West. These collections from Taiwan were then gradually transferred to the major museums around Europe and North America, and eventually forgotten by the world. Currently some of the major museums in Europe and North America, such as the British Museum, Canada's Royal Ontario Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History, still maintain a collection of the artifacts and photos that were collected in Taiwan by Westerners before the colonization of Taiwan by Japan. These collections from Taiwan might be fragmented, but they are still valuable records on early material culture of Taiwan. These materials also reflect the interactions and encounter between Taiwan and the West in those early days.

The database content of National Taiwan University's Taiwan Ethnological Collections in Overseas Museums (TECOM) comes from a collaboration with major overseas ethnology museums including the American Museum of Natural History; the British Museum; the Pitt-Rivers Museum, University of Oxford; Museums of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge; University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology; and the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada. The research team of TECOM compiles, organizes, and sets up digital database entries of the Taiwanese artifacts, images, and text records in the collections of these institutions. With the investigative research and digitization of the overseas artifacts, a compilation of these precious material culture evidence once lost overseas can gradually be established. This will in turn supplement and enhance the diversity of the material research in Taiwan. Furthermore, the bilingual English and Chinese descriptions will enable these artifacts and material culture data to become Taiwanese historical and cultural heritage that is accessible to the international society, which will help increase the international visibility of Taiwan.

CooperationNational Taiwan University