National / History

Taiwan digitizes Japanese colonial-era blueprints of railway stations


Taiwan is working to digitize the blueprints of railway stations built by Japan during its 50-year colonial rule of the island, the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture announced Wednesday.

Yang Tzu-pao, deputy minister of culture, told a news conference that the digital images of the design drawings will be stored on cloud servers at the National Railway Museum, which is scheduled to open in about two years.

“The museum will be the first museum managed by the ministry to provide digitized materials stored in the cloud,” Yang said, noting the public will eventually be able to access the material online.

The one-year pilot project, which began last July and is scheduled to be completed this September, involves digitizing the building maps for seven major stations in Taiwan. Two are in the southern cities of Kaohsiung and Tainan; two are in Taichung and Chiayi in central Taiwan; and three are in Keelung, Hsinchu and Taipei in northern Taiwan.

One of the project’s leaders, National Cheng Kung University architecture professor Liou Shuenn-ren, said he hopes the ministry will continue to support the project next year. While the first year of the project focuses on railway stations in seven big cities, Liou said he hopes the second year will focus on stations in small towns and the third year on stations that no longer exist. More than 5,000 blueprints of railway stations built by the Japanese all over Taiwan were discovered at the Japanese Railway Administration building, near Taipei Railway Station, in 1998 when the National Taiwan Museum was planning the building’s renovation.

Tsai Fei-wen, a professor of conservation of cultural relics and museology at Tainan National University of Arts, leads a team of students responsible for maintaining and repairing the delicate paper drawings, some over a century old. Tsai said her team has already spent more than two months repairing one drawing that is in poor shape. Earlier, she spent over a year fixing another badly damaged drawing.

Since the project began last year, Tsai said her team has repaired 11 damaged blueprints and plans to complete more than 300 by the time the first phase concludes in September.

The National Taiwan Museum is also planning to digitize an archive of 120,000 blueprints produced by Taiwanese architects after World War II.