Words from the Director
Taiwan’s path to democracy is one that is filled with stories of struggle, resistance and victories. These stories were once ignored and even forgotten. In order to make sure that they can be heard, remembered and passed down to our children and grandchildren and to the world, we established the National Human Rights Museum (NHRM).
The Jingmei and Green Island White Terror Memorial Parks, both of which are under the management of the NHRM, are historical sites where the wounds of history are transformed into memory. The sites of Green Island as an island of prisons and Jingmei as a venue of military trials are the sum of living history and abundant in life stories from the time of the White Terror. However, since the lifting of the martial law, the parks had faced crises of dismantling and reconstruction and had gone through changes of names and governing bodies. The establishment of the NHRM as a dedicated organization to conserve the wounded past of Taiwan shows that the society has reached a preliminary consensus on its understanding of the White Terror and the values of human rights. Although there is a still long way to go to achieve transitional justice, Taiwan’s ignorance of the authoritarian era will soon be a thing of the past and it is a critical time to pursue and implement human rights ideals.
At this, the time of its establishment, it is hoped that the NHRM can first work as a “viewfinder” of human rights and democracy or a micro lens to capture the little, dark corners of history and then switch to a wide-angle lens which opens up people’s views on democracy and human rights through inspirational and divergent thinking.
With this aspiration, the NHRM proposes three visions for its future. First, to make the NHRM a “central kitchen”: collecting teaching materials for democracy and human rights, designing learning toolkits to meet different demands and providing resources for teachers to facilitate human rights education. Meanwhile, the museum collaborates with local governments to protect historical sites of injustice so that local citizens can know more about the history around them.
Second, to engage in further research. The NHRM set up a Collections, Research & Archives Center at an early stage to gather every victim’s unique encounters based on their oral history and personal materials, fit their stories against the historical backdrop and draw up a comprehensive picture of how authoritarianism damaged human rights. The museum studies the persecuting system and helps restore historical truths along with the gradual opening of political archives with a purpose to clear the victims of their unjust charges.
Third, to develop the NHRM as a platform for international exchange of democratic experiences. Taiwan’s peaceful transformation is often regarded as a paradigm in East Asia, but Taiwan has fallen behind many newer democracies due to its passive attitude towards transitional justice. Fortunately, with the government’s pledge to uphold transitional justice, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The NHRM will collaborate with international counterparts which have likewise dealt with dark history and build a bridge of cultural interchange using democracy and memory. By doing so, we will be able to make the NHRM a unique entity as Asia’s first museum which combines actual sites with the history of human rights violations by authoritarianism.
Lastly, I’d like to express my gratitude towards the political victims and social leaders for their unwavering support and assistance. I hope the seeds of human rights planted by the NHRM will help nurture the next generation and create a future without opposition, hatred or discrimination. May we remember lessons from the past and never let history repeat.
Director Chen Chun-hung of the NHRM