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Share the Story ― The Gold Museum in New Taipei City―

    Unique Exhibits are just everywhere in Jinguashi Settlement Mining Sites in New Taipei City. The Four-joined Japanese-Style Residences tell not only that Japanese people settled there but also how Taiwanese people reused them and have preserved as important heritage to date. The Tofu Pudding served at a booth beside the Benshan No. 5 Tunnel tells that miners used to have the traditional sweets before entering the mine to work. If you hike in the mountains surrounding the sites, plants, rocks, steep slopes and everything you can see or feel there tell that the natural environmental features compose the mining sites and how people have coexisted with them. The Gold Museum consists of all of the storytellers spread over the sites.

    After the mining industry implemented successively byJapanese Mine Corp and Taiwan Metal Mining Corp in Jinguashi ended in 1987, the project of establishing the first ever museum of industry and mining in Taiwan took place in 1994. In 2005, the Gold Museum opened.

The museum is based on the concept of ecomuseum. After introduced in France in 1971, the concept has been controversial in museology and community planning all over the world. In 2004, a definition was adopted by the European Network of Ecomuseums (‘The Long Network’): ‘an ecomuseum is a dynamic way in which communities preserve, interpret, and manage their heritage for sustainable development. An ecomuseum is based on a community agreement (Davis, 2011).’ The Gold Museum in New Taipei City also follows this definition and has been established as a local communication platform hoping that the local mining history can be properly preserved and the economy can be boosted (Tsai, 2015).

In the Gold Museum, the sites’ historic elements are preserved almost as they were and utilized on site. For example, the Four-joined Japanese-Style Residences, which used to be a dormitory for upper-level employees of Japanese Mine Corp and Taiwan Metal Mining Corp, are now arranged as a space to experience daily life of the employees. You can see both lifestyles of Japanese and Taiwanese employee families through the exhibits of daily used tools such asutensils and furniture. Because the buildings had been not in used for long time before the museum opened, they needed to be restored. To follow the primary Japanese way to build the residence, the New Taipei City government called Japanese carpenters who had traditional technique. Not only the actual building process but also a ritual for framework completion (Jotoshiki(上棟式) in Japanese) was implemented following Japanese style. The old building materials which had been used for original buildings were reused for restored buildings as far as they are still in good condition. Today visitors can learn this idea and process to restore the old as old following the original way and the concept of the museum to preserve the heritage and share the history through an explanation movie in the Four-joined Japanese-Style Residences.

As the definition of ecomuseum above, the Gold Museum is based on a community agreement. In the museum, you can feel the sightseen area and local residential area are overlapped. Buildings of a middle school are just located near the main street many visitors pass and students’ voice can be heard. Post office and police station which local residents need to use are located in the open space where restaurants and food booths for visitors are located. Actually, the local residents and community themselves are expected to be permanent exhibits of the museum (Tsai, 2015). For example, the booth selling the “Mountain Peak Tofu Pudding” beside the Benshan No. 5 Tunnel is set up by local residents who won a “Sweets and Desserts Competition.” Visitors can feel the atmosphere before miners enter  the mine to work at the very place. The local residents and the local sweets themselves are exhibits telling the story.

The exhibits in the Gold Museum are not limited to artifacts. The natural environment and every element which composes it are also fascinating storytellers.

Going up along the stone steps beside the Benshan No. 5 Tunnel, you can come across rich nature which is the base of culture and history of the sites. The moist air and rain grow various plants lively which are completely covering the surface of mountains. I saw some kinds of lizards at my feet and felt the wild nature is so close to us.

The main historic site on this hill is the Jinguashi Shinto Shrine. The shrine was built during Japanese settlement and had been abandoned for long time. Today this is not only one of the important exhibits in the museum to tell the history, but also utilized as the destination of an event held each year by the museum collaborating with a local feast: a “feast of blood brotherhood” (Tsai, 2015). The feast is on a reunion day for local people and the people who left their hometown for work, after a tradition among miners that blood brothers should look after each other. One day before the feast, the museum conducts an event of “Bonding by Destiny, Visiting Jinguashi Shrine” with the community. Visitors and their friends, schoolmates or siblings are welcomed to the event and provided with a group souvenir photos taken at the shrine and a certificate of the achievement.

Looking around on the way of the long steps, I could see that the settlement sites where I was are just small scale and totally depending on the shapes of lofty mountains. Buildings are located on limited flats and roads are totally winding in the shape of the bumpy slopes. It was like a microcosm where the nature and human have coexisted and I straightly understood this is the world. 

The exhibition and storyteller composing the Gold Museum are not all I observed and have written here. Also, since they keep changing and developing, it is possible that the situation and selection of exhibits are different in next year. This arouses me to visiting there again and many times. In fact, the number of visitors has increased and reached 1.339 million in 2013 (Tsai, 2015). I think this is because the exhibition includes almost everything spread out of the box (the conventional museum inside buildings and limited spaces). The more various exhibits are recognized, the more various stories and ways to tell are found. This is the way to share the stories of the sites in the Gold Museum.

 

References

Davis, P. 2011. Ecomuseums 2nd Edition: A Sense of Place. London and New York. Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd

Tsai, T. 2015. Relation between Ecomuseum Management and Local Community Development, Case Study on New Taipei City Gold Museum of Taiwan. 新北市立黄金博物館 學術期刊2015

 
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