The Bureau of Cultural Heritage released in April a list of nine collections of documentary heritage for the first National Register of Taiwan, which was drafted after UNESCO's Memory of the World program.
Of the nine, two were from the National Taiwan Museum's collection: the Sinckan Manuscripts and a collection of documents pertaining to the short-lived Republic of Formosa. In the future, the NTM will continue to collate resources for the maintenance, exhibition, and digitization of such items for the memory and documentary heritage of Taiwan.
The Sinckan Manuscripts date back as far as the 17th century and include items from land contracts between local aborigines and Chinese immigrants, to indigenous copybooks and shopping lists.
Many of the documents are written in both Chinese and romanized Taivoan, Makatao, and Sinckan aboriginal languages, and they are closely tied to the Sirayan community of what is now Tainan. They became part of the NTM's collection in the 1920s.
Another batch of Sinckan Manuscripts was collected by Taihoku Imperial University — today's National Taiwan University — in the 1930s, and share the same historical, cultural, and historical context as the initial collection.
These documents reflect how Taiwanese indigenous groups adapted to their changing world, showing how concepts of currency and commerce had already taken root in their communities. They record how lifestyles and communities changed between the late 17th and early 19th centuries, providing a valuable aboriginal perspective on Taiwan's early cultural and historic development.
As for the Republic of Formosa, although the time between its 1895 founding and its loss to the invading Japan was brief, it nonetheless marks an important point in both Taiwanese and East Asian history.
The items and documents held by the NTM are varied, from notices and flags to photographs, tickets, and maps. Their provenance is similarly varied, with some items having been taken as loot by military forces and others coming from individual donations. The majority, though, are either directly linked to the period's history or were actually used by people at the time.
Among the collection are several one-of-a-kind items, like the Republic of Formosa's flag, a fearsome tiger on a yellow background; a black military banner; notices from both the Republic and the Japanese forces; and a Japanese war map.
In terms of authenticity, uniqueness, rarity, and overall quality of preservation, this collection is not only a precious record of important historical events, but also a symbol of Taiwan's resistance to being ceded and the first buds of a distinct Taiwanese consciousness. It is unique as a commemoration of Taiwan's historical development.
The Memory of the World program was launched by UNESCO in 1992 as an effort to preserve important documentary heritage. The program is built around the belief that documentary heritage paints a picture of how human societies think, discover, and achieve, and how those shift and change over time.
In response to the Memory of the World program, the Bureau of Cultural Heritage launched its first project to select items for a National Register of Taiwan in 2017, with a total of nine proposals making it through to be included on the final list.
The documentary heritage chosen covers Taiwanese society, politics, economics, religion, education, indigenous history, and women's rights movements from 1721 to 2015. It is a detailed record of the growth of Taiwan into a distinctively multicultural nation, and one that shall preserve, protect, and pass on our collective heritage.