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History of the Museum

The Academia Sinica was established in 1928, and the field of ethnic studies was promoted by its first president, Mr. Tsai Yuan-Pei. The newly-created ethnic studies group was initially a subsidiary of the Institute of Social Sciences. Ethnology as an academic field began to develop on a national level at that time. In 1934, the Department of Ethnology left the Institute of Social Sciences to merge with the Anthropology Department of the Institute of History and Philology. The Academia Sinica moved to Taiwan in 1949, and in 1954 became permanently located in Nangang. It was at this time the founding of an Institute of Ethnology was proposed.

The preparatory office of the Institute of Ethnology began functioning in 1955. In December of that year the Director of the preparatory office, Dr. Ling Shun-sheng, led an expedition to Tjaljaqavus Village, currently Laiyi village in Pingtong county, to conduct research on Paiwan culture and collect ethnographic data and artifacts. The research team consisted of, among others, Li Yi-yuan, Jen Shien-min and Li Hwei. The data and material collected by this group of scholars formed the beginning of our museum’s collection. The next year saw the creation of a special room dedicated to the display of these specimens, providing opportunities for academic study.

The Institute of Ethnology, with Dr. Ling as Director, was officially launched in 1965. In its collection room exhibited the ethnology artifacts collected by its research fellows over the years, together with more than one thousand specimens representative of ethnic minorities in China, which are originally conserved in the Institute of History and Philology.

In 1978, Dr. Ling passed away. The “Ling Shun-sheng Memorial Collection Room” was named after him to commemorate his contributions in creating the Institute of Ethnology. In 1985, the specimen room, together with the Institute of Ethnology, moved to its present location. The specimen room was transformed into the Museum of Institute of Ethnology in 1988.

Since its founding, the Museum has not only preserved artifacts and information, but continued to expand its specimen collection, hold exhibitions, support academic research, and actively plan and promote development strategies. In short, the Museum has become a multifunctional research museum. Our current collection of more than eight thousand pieces includes cultural relics of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, specimens of Han Chinese folk and religious artifacts and ethnological artifacts from Southeast Asia and the Pacific, together with various other miscellaneous items.

Since its opening, the museum has received frequent visits from researchers in Taiwan and the international community, from social and education groups, and the general public. With this support, this modestly sized museum has been able to continue to provide services in ethnological research and social education, and to preserve valuable ethnological cultural heritages. In recent years, in addition to providing services to the Institute’s research interests and domestic and international academic circles, the museum has also held featured research exhibitions, educational events, and inter-museum cooperation. It is hoped that the exhibitions will correspond more closely to the research prospects of the Institute, and promote the scale of education.


Dr. Ling Shun-sheng (third right) and his colleagues (from the left) Li Yih-yuan, Li Hwei and Jen Shien-min at a photo session with the Paiwan chief Gilegilao of the Chalas House (center) and Danubak of the Tarigi House (second right) at Tjaljaqavus Village in 1955.