In 1994, the Ministry of Culture(MOC)-the antecedent organization was the Council for Cultural Affairs(CCA) before 2012-started to promote the policy of community empowerment, encouraging the public to participate in community affairs and devising a series of strategies to develop regional cultures and bridge the urban-rural divide. Local values are essential to community empowerment. Thus, cultural development was approached in a decentralized way in order for it to take root in local communities.
In 2002, the MOC(the antecedent organization at that time was the CCA) implemented the Local Community Museums Project. The phase II project followed in 2008, seeking to expand integration of community cultural resources, creativity, and businesses in the hope of creating a “Cultural Living Zone”. This marked another milestone in the enhancement of Local Cultural Museums.
Achievements of Phase I Project
The MOC puts great emphasis on the effective use of Local Cultural Museums in order to enable culture to take root in local communities and satisfy the public’s need for a cultural life. Although there is still room for improvement in the Local Community Museums Project, since its implementation in 2002 it has achieved several goals.
(1) Revitalization of unused space: More than 59% of the Local Cultural Museums are located in places previously not available for cultural purposes, such as old factories, schools, residences and offices, which had fallen into disuse (for reasons ranging from social change to population migration). The project provided an opportunity for these spaces to be reinvented. The majority of Local Cultural Museums now occupying these spaces are running smoothly.
(2) Provision of cultural and educational opportunities: Across the country, Local Cultural Museums have been extremely helpful in enhancing the cultural image of various regions, providing cultural and educational opportunities for local residents and encouraging cultural creativity. Local Cultural Museums also serve as venues for art performances, services and tourism.
(3) Safeguarding regional culture: The project has encouraged Local Cultural Museums to use their creativity to put regional culture in the spotlight and to act as centers of culture for local residents.
(4) Manifestation of regional cultural vitality: Even though Local Cultural Museums have limited funds and manpower, most are still working very hard to preserve local memory and important sites in order to show the vitality of regional culture.
(5) Enhancement of quality of life: Social development has come very quickly to Taiwan. Perhaps for this reason, the Taiwanese people do not yet have a deep cultural awareness. However, with the establishment of Local Cultural Museums, culture is no longer out of reach, and people are becoming more willing to participate in cultural events. Local Cultural Museums will continue to improve and will strive to satisfy people’s growing cultural needs.
In the case of a small number of Local Cultural Museums, it was considered that their remote location, less popular subject matter and shortage of personnel led to under-use and poor performance. This kind of criticism overlooks the founding idea of Local Cultural Museums, which was to increase interaction among local residents and build community awareness. Such criticism also ignores the fact that many small but functional community museums aim to serve local people, rather than visitors from outside the area.
In light of the criticism, the MOC designed a second phase of the Local Cultural Museums Project (scheduled for 2008–2013). This phase highlights the arts, culture, life, creativity, and learning. It also aims to increase participation by local residents. We hope to integrate Local Cultural Museums and other sites of cultural interest into Cultural Living Zones.
The Future of Local Cultural Museums: Cultural Living Zones
The first phase of the Local Cultural Museums Project (2002–2007) was successful in raising the public’s awareness of their regional communities, which could be transformed into a major force in regional cultural development. This force, paired with improvements in cultural facilities, will help the government create “cultural living zones” across Taiwan and develop high-quality cultural environments. The second phase of the Local Cultural Museums Project therefore has two focuses: flagship museums in cities and counties and cultural living zones.
The idea of the “cultural living zone” is about combining cultural activities with daily life. The zone integrates a number of tangible and intangible cultural resources—public participation, cultural events, ecology and environmental protection, natural and historical landscapes, regional businesses, and cultural and education facilities. Such integration will give local residents greater and equal access to cultural resources, meet their need for cultural facilities, encourage participation in cultural events, and enhance cultural awareness.
Culture takes a long time to develop. On the basis of previous successful policies and the concept of regional cultural living zones, the MOC has devised the Local Cultural Museums Project Phase II and the New Hometown Community Empowerment Project Phase II to encourage cities and counties to abandon the outmoded concept of single-spot urban planning and devise mid- and long-term policies that look at each region as a whole. We hope that by opening cultural sites up to local residents, and restructuring regional cultural landscapes, we will enhance Taiwan’s cultural heritage and spotlight diverse regional cultures. In this way, culture will take root in local communities, which will then form a solid foundation for national development and become a creative and inspirational force in Taiwan.