921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan

There is something about earthquakes. People in Taiwan got used to them, they live their lives, take precautions etc. But for me, who experienced them for the first time, and few times in a row within just first weeks of our stay they became my private little obsession.

We thought of visiting this museum even before our travel, but since we experienced few quakes here, I knew we just had to come. It’s this kind of force you want to understand and fears you want to overcome.

We can obviously add the educational value for Little Rascals, but really, this time, it wasn’t the main reason. Although in the end, it was one of the most educational experiences we had recently.

It was truly eye-opening and one of a kind, very moving and thought-provoking. We were reminded of the incredible and unstoppable strength of nature, we learned a lot about the quakes and we got an insight into how mankind uses technology to overcome the effects of that strength. Yes, we are an amazing species after all!

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On September 21, 1999, at 1:47am a 7.3 (Richter scale) earthquake struck central Taiwan leaving thousands of people dead or severely wounded. More than 100k buildings were completely destroyed or severely damaged. It was the second deadliest earthquake in recorded history of Taiwan.

The government decided to leave some of the ruins untouched as a memorial for the dead and wounded and as a reminder to the future generations of the need for taking necessary precautions.

921 Earthquake Museum was opened in 2001 and stretches out over the grounds of former Guangfu Junior High School which was completely destroyed during the quake. The museum is built around the original constructions damaged or destroyed during the earthquake.

The museum includes Chelungpu Fault Gallery, Earthquake Engineering Hall, Image Gallery, Disaster Prevention Hall, and Reconstruction Records Hall.

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Chelungpu Fault Gallery

The gallery has two main parts/exhibitions which run simultaneously.

First one explains the geology behind the earthquakes (with its focus on Taiwan and the 921 quake) providing a comprehensive information on why they occur, how waves are created, what are aftershocks, how a seismometer works etc. There are plenty of models, hands-on activities and experiments, each with detailed instructions to follow (all available in English).

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The second exhibition shows photos of the damages which occurred along the Chelungpu Fault – destroyed buildings, bridges, and roads, elevated ground, fields etc.

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Earthquake Engineering Hall

An amazing hall for little engineers (but not only!). Full of hands-on activities, very detailed information charts, interesting facts, and curiosities. Both children and adults will enjoy this part. We learned how the buildings are built in order to withstand earthquakes but also how should we organize the indoors to prevent losses and damages.

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Image Gallery

Displays photos and audiovisuals about the 921 earthquake, from the moment of the earthquake and the aftermath till the last victim was found. It shows the destruction caused by the quake as well as people behavior, international help, etc.

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In this part, we will also find the earthquake simulator (Earthquake Experience Theatre). It’s a 5-minutes show in which we can feel the trembling with a strength of the one that occurred on 9/21 during the main shock and several aftershocks. It is held in a specially designed room, where nothing can happen. It obviously doesn’t fully reflect the terror of the moment, but one can easily use her imagination. The main shock lasted 40 seconds and I bet those were the scariest and longest 40 seconds ever for people who survived that quake.

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There is also a 3D theater, supposedly very good, but we decided to skip it. Kids were already getting tired and actually we weren’t sure how they would feel during the show, whether it would be appropriate for them or not.

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Disaster Prevention Hall

Due to its location and geology, Taiwan suffers from two major and frequently occurring natural disasters – earthquakes and typhoons. The 921 earthquake showed that people were not properly prepared for such disasters. Neither the rescue agencies nor public.

The exhibition in this hall is split between two galleries. The first one concentrates on typhoons, water circulation, and flood preventions. We didn’t spend much time here. On this visit we focused on earthquakes and by this time we were already overwhelmed with information and stimuli.

The second exhibition concentrates on accidents prevention and is shown as a story of 3 heroes send by Buddha to retrieve the True Scripture of Accident Prevention, “Accident prevention – journey to the West”. But again, we were already too tired to follow the story so we just played around (again there were a lot of things for children to try out).

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In this very hall, there was also a very interesting illustration on folk tales and beliefs from around the world about the forces behind earthquakes. And yes, I was thrilled to find out about the Hindu one! Any other Terry Pratchett fans out there? Did you know about it? I admit I was a total ignorant till this very moment.

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Reconstruction Record Hall

Documents the reconstruction efforts following the Chi-Chi (921) Earthquake. We didn’t visit this part, as it was already late and we were all tired and hungry.

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Outdoor area

When walking between galleries (and sometimes from inside) we can see all the damages done to the school. Damaged and collapsed buildings, interiors of classrooms, elevated ground etc.

It makes a huge impression and is a really difficult and depressing experience.

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Practical information:

* Official website: 921 Earthguake Museum

* opening hours: 9:00am – 17:00pm (galleries) and 6:00am – 22:00pm (outdoors); closed on Mondays

* admission fee: NT$50 (adults), children under 6yo enter for free; on Wednesday between 9:00am and 10:00am admission is free of charge

* getting there – we took a taxi from our hotel (Central Taichung), cost around 400nt$; there is a bus going there but I’m not sure which line and from where to take it

* I suggest bringing some snack with you. There is a cafe but we didn’t like it too much and decided not to eat there. Besides, it was already late and most of the things from menu were not available anymore

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