This month, National Taiwan University is welcoming visitors to enjoy its main campus at its most vibrant and beautiful. The 2017 Azalea Festival (台大杜鵑花節) is on until the end of this month, and no doubt, everyone visiting will want to take a couple of photos with these flowers in full bloom.
While I’m very partial to azaleas, the university holds a few more secret gems that delight in different ways! On the same university grounds lie a number of museums practically unheard of. Housed in some of the university’s oldest historical buildings, they’re open to the public, and free!
During my year of study at NTU, these museums and galleries made intriguing places to relax in after class and I would recommend it to anyone who could spare even ten minutes. While everything is happening at NTU, don’t just walk down Royal Palm Boulevard and take selfies with the pretty azaleas. Take a gander in the following museums, and make your visit to Taiwan’s oldest and largest university even more worthwhile!
NTU History Gallery (校史館)
A university that was established in 1928 is bound to have a wonderful collection of historical artefacts! What began with only two faculties and a combined total of fifty nine students, is now recognised as Taiwan’s top university, globally reputable for outstanding academia. Furniture, teaching manuals, and student records are here on display along with information about NTU’s chosen symbols (where you can learn of its patron flower, the azalea). The Gallery also depicts NTU’s most turbulent past, such as the student protests while Taiwan was under marshall law.
NTU Museum of Anthropology (人類學博物館)
Small yet detailed, the museum allows you to see the lives of those who have called Taiwan home through the ages. Much of the collection is sourced from the era of Taihoku Imperial University which preceded NTU under Japanese rule. From clothing, hand tools, and wooden artefacts, to films, photos, and written accounts; the museum provides a thorough understanding of indigenous communities who existed long before the Han Chinese arrived. The Museum is right next to NTU History Gallery in the same building so team up the two in one visit.
NTU Agricultural Exhibition Hall (農業陳列館)
NTU has its own farms and makes its own food. On the main campus you can wander over to the Experimental Farm and admire its crops and gardens. The university therefore takes Taiwan’s agriculture pretty seriously. The Exhibition Hall takes you through the best of the industry, new and eco-friendly technologies, and promotes more love for Taiwan’s green and natural. At the Agricultural Product Sales Centre, you could also purchase NTU food stuffs as well as the famous NTU milk. Lines are always out the door.
NTU Museum of Zoology (動物博物館)
Extend your walk to Zhoushan Road (舟山路) and you might catch a whiff of something that smells vaguely like an animal farm. Follow your nose to the Life Sciences building (生命科學院) and you’ll find the Museum of Zoology. Despite the modern exterior, the museum’s foundations could be traced back to 1928 when the university first opened. Over 20,000 fossils and animal specimens from Taiwan and surrounding islands have been documented – most of which are on display here, including a baleen whale!
NTU Geo-Specimen Cottage (地質標本館)
At first look, it’s easy to mistaken the Geo Specimen Cottage or Geological Herbarium as a house for the groundskeeper. Though well-preserved, the cottage was used only as a warehouse until the museum’s conception in 2003. Inside holds a modest collection of 3500 specimens of rock, minerals and fossils of significant geological value from Taiwan. You can look at these specimens under a light microscope, then take a stroll in its garden to see larger rock formations typical of the Taiwanese scenery.
Herbarium of NTU (植物標本館)
This is one of my favourite places to walk around in on a nice day. The Herbarium was one of the earliest that were established, and its focus was to collect and document Taiwan’s flora, which eventually reached an incredible 250,000 or so specimens. About 60,000 of these are indigenous to Taiwan and it was here that some of these newly-discovered species were named. There’s also an exhibition room archiving seeds and other dried plant specimens, but do not miss the outdoor areas, including the fern greenhouse.
NTU Heritage Hall of Physics (物理文物廳）
Somewhere in NTU’s original nuclear physics lab lies Asia’s very first Cockcroft-Walton linear accelerator. Built by a professor and his young team of students during the Taihoku Imperial University era, the achievement sent shockwaves through academic circles in Japan and the rest was history. The Hall has been reconstructed to commemorate their achievements, and to house not only the main portions of the accelerator, but also a number of other impressive scientific resources from back in the day – including glassware hand-blown by previous physicists, and Hokutolite, a radioactive mineral originally sourced only in Taiwan.
Getting There: Here’s a map to help you find all these knowledgeable worlds with ease. The NTU Museum of Medical Humanities (醫學人文博物館), NTU Archives (檔案館), and the NTU Insect Museum (昆蟲標本館) are outside the main campus, but are also included for you to enjoy!
Opening Hours: Most of these museums are open 6 days a week, closed either Mondays or Tuesdays, and on public holidays. Hours of operation are usually 10am to 4pm with a one hour lunch break from 12 to 1pm. For accurate opening hours, view in Google Maps.