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Legacies of NTU - No. 8
Forgotten, but not Lost: the Hirase shellfish collection at NTU Zoology Museum

shell samples
The Hirase Shellfish Museum housed over 10,000 shell samples from Japan, Taiwan, and the South Seas.(Photo: NTU Museums)

Around a century ago in 1913, a private collector of shells established the world's first private shell museum in Japan's Kyoto City. The Hirase Shellfish Museum housed over 10,000 shell samples from Japan, Taiwan, and the South Seas, which was considered quite an establishment at that time.

When the museum officially closed in 1919, it's collection was divided into three and shipped to the University of Tokyo, Kyoto City, and the Taihoku Imperial University (NTU's predecessor) in the hopes that it could reach more people around Japan and Taiwan. Nevertheless, the brutality of war and a series of merciless fires destroyed almost all the samples stored in Tokyo and Kyoto, and the stock in Taiwan unwittingly became the most complete section of what was the originally the complete Hirase collection.

All the items came
All the items came with its own receptacle, showing that great efforts were placed into their preservation. (Photo: NTU Museums)

The collection in TIU, however, was placed in a wooden box and forgotten to the faculty, staff and students of the Department of Animal Science and Technology. And while it had been forgotten, Hirase's shell samples were never lost, so when a fire kissed the wooden box many years later, Professor Jiun-Hong Chen (陳俊宏), who was then still a student, uncovered the forgotten treasures.

One of the many uniquely shaped shell samples
One of the many uniquely shaped shell samples and its hand-written record.(Photo: NTU Museums)

The wooden case revealed a variety of shell samples from Japan and Taiwan, and each and every sample came with its own hand-written record and an unique receptacle. Some of the smaller shells were even placed into tiny capsules. From this, it can be deduced that great effort and passion for the items must have been put into the collection's organization.

While it was fire that destroyed the Hirase collection in Japan, it was also fire that brought the remaining of the collection back to light here at NTU. The samples have now been rearranged and placed on display at the NTU Museum of Zoology, and it is hoped that the uniquely shaped ocean samples can once again be discovered for all the public to see.

Visit the Zoology Museum’s official website or click HERE to access original article written by the Zoology Museum (04/30/2014).

National Taiwan University is home to an abundance of educational and cultural artifacts that bear the history of the campus’ past. As a result, the NTU Museums project, a campaign that integrates the university’s ten individual museums, was launched in 2005 and officially inaugurated in 2007 so that the school’s hidden treasures could be introduced to the public. To honor the school’s past, the “Legacies of NTU” series will feature the stories of NTU’s hidden treasures by taking you through the most precious items among the university’s collection.

Chinese version