Museum of Church History, Taiwan

A Review of Tainan Chang Jung Senior High School, Museum of Church History (臺南長榮高級中學教會史料館), Tainan, Taiwan.

Those working in the field of Christian missionary movements in Taiwan will perhaps have heard of the Museum of Church History housed in the Tainan Chang Jung Senior High School. The school was originally founded as Tainan Presbyterian Middle School in 1885 by missionaries of the English Presbyterian Mission (EPM). In 1950, the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, which was established with the help of the EPM, started collecting and preserving their historical materials such as lists of baptized congregations, records of church councils, and missionaries’ personal objects. As contributions accumulated, the Church stored those materials in the Office of the General Assembly in Taipei in 1957. Unfortunately, however, part of the collection was lost over the years due to several relocations and lack of funding to employ archivists with proper training. Thus, in 1987, in order to protect these historical documents from further decay, the Tainan Chang Jung Senior High School was granted permission from the General Assembly to store them in their Museum of School History. There, the collection was sorted by the editing team of A Centenary History of Chang Jung Middle School  (Centenary, 長榮中學百年史), a project that the school had started a little earlier in the same year. In 1990 the school built a separate building and housed the archive in one of its rooms as the Museum of Church History.

My personal connection with the collections of the museum began back in 2009 as part of my MA research concerning Christian missionary movements and in particular the relationship between the self-awareness of Christian workers and their attitudes towards converts and contemporary socio-political circumstances. As part of this project I focused on the figure of Campbell N. Moody (1865-1940), a Scottish missionary of the EPM in Japanese colonial Taiwan. Moody is an extraordinary figure not only because of his reflective stance towards his own colonial experience, but also because of his prolific literary output; during a period of 31 years he published about 10 books in English, and many volumes of Peh-oe-ji (POJ), or Romanized Minnan-Taiwanese literature. In the process of collecting these relatively easily accessible published materials, however, I learned that some of his handwritten manuscripts are archived in Tainan Chang Jung Senior High School, Museum of Church History. Since my first visit in 2010 I have returned almost on a yearly basis in order to photograph Moody’s materials and The Bulletin of Tainan Presbyterian Middle School Alumni (The Bulletin, 私立臺南長老教中學校友會雜誌).

The Archive itself is divided in a reading room and a large exhibit room. The reading room, besides housing trophies and photographs of previous headmasters and chaplains, stocks many reference works related to the history of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. In the exhibit room we find a display of historical documents and personal objects that used to belong to EPM missionaries and Taiwanese Christians. In the case of Moody, there are several first editions of his published works, some of his handwritten manuscripts, and the bugle he used to play to gather crowds during his open-air sermons. All the items in the exhibit room are accompanied by simple captions explaining the nature of the materials and how they came to be donated to the Archive.

Since the Museum is housed in a school, and is not normally accessible to the public, there are a few things one should keep in mind when planning a visit.

Letters of introduction: After writing two letters of introduction, one to the headmaster of Tainan Chang Jung Senior High School and one to the Committee on the History of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (the Committee, 台灣基督長老教會歷史委員會) that manages the archive, I received an email from the high school’s chaplain welcoming my visit. Several email exchanges followed during which we set a date and time. Prior to each visit I would inform the chaplain of the materials I needed and asked for permission to photograph them.

Catalogue: Unfortunately, the museum has no published catalogue of its archives. However, I was fortunate in that my supervisor showed me a tentative catalogue that indicates some of the titles, types, and languages of the materials available; for example, mission literature (Bibles, hymnaries, catechisms, works on church history, in POJ or Chinese characters), records of church councils (general assemblies, synods, and presbyteries), directories of Taiwanese church members, the POJ periodical Tai-oan Kau-hoe Po (The Church News), and the EPM’s English periodical The Messenger. For those without the benefit of this tentative catalogue, however, the only way to be certain about whether the museum houses anything of direct interest is to make an inquiry to the school or to personally visit.

Visit time: Since there is no specially appointed archival staff and the chaplains are working full-time as teachers in the school, visits usually take place in between classes. On the appointed date and time, the chaplain opens the Archive and shows you the requested materials. After agreeing on the approximate time needed to finish reading and taking photographs, he then leaves and returns at the set time in order to refile the documents and lock the Archive.

The Museum of Church History of Tainan Chang Jung Senior High School is not adequately staffed but they are extremely welcoming to visitors, and the Archive houses many valuable sources that cannot be found anywhere else. Even though the Museum is housed in a school, due to the fact that it is located on the fifth floor, noise levels are minimal and since one is likely to be the only person in the room, it is an excellent environment in which to focus on the many unique materials.

Kazue Mino
Graduate School of Education
Kyoto University
mino.kazue.56m@st.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Image: Pbdragonwang, 中文: 長榮中學光鹽學舍, 14 August 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

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