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National Museum of Prehistory

Taitung, Taiwan

National Museum of Prehistory_1

In 1980, construction of Taitung Station of the South-Line Railway unearthed prehistoric remains at Peinan, which would become the largest archaeological site on Taiwan. Excavations there gave birth to the National Museum of Prehistory, which has since become the pre-eminent Taiwanese institution dedicated to natural ecology, prehistoric, and indigenous cultures.

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National Museum of Prehistory_4

RAA developed concepts for the museum’s initial layout, created its master plan, and developed an interpretive program and expandable exhibition system. The exhibition explores the early Formosan peoples and their formative links to Pacific-region societies. It includes rare objects, such as slate-slab coffins and intricately crafted articles, buried with the dead, that date from 32,000 BCE.

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Its largest exhibition hall displays archaeological objects displayed in zones according to their various functions within scenographic reconstructions developed from meticulous archeological research.

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National Museum of Prehistory_5
National Museum of Prehistory_5

Large video-screen projections of Taiwan’s geography provide a media context through which life-size figures go about their daily lives—fishing, making pottery, cooking—as pieced together from archaeological evidence. Cases line the perimeter walls, and settings present systematic collections of similar artifacts, rare treasures, and mystery objects. Interactive technology offers in-depth data in gaming formats.

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The museum is dedicated to showing the lines of continuity between the ancient world and today—including the ways that contemporary research can teach us new things about the deep past. Its Central Hall is a public forum where visitors can express their points of view about the relationship between people, nature, and culture.

Year 2002

Size 33,000 square feet

Architect Michael Graves & Associates

AwardsSEGD Global Design Award: Merit Award, Exhibition Design/Museum Environments

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Photography © Peter Mauss/Esto