Established in 1908, the museum is the oldest in Taiwan. The colonial government of Japan set up the Museum on October 24, 1908 to commemorate the inauguration of the North-South Railway. The museum had a collection of over 10,000 items in its initial stages. In 1915, the new building of the museum in Taipei New Park was inaugurated and became one of the major public buildings during .
Under the -rule government, the Department of Education of the Taiwan Provincial Government took over the administration of the museum in 1949 and renamed it "Taiwan Provincial Museum." The museum underwent two major renovations in 1961 and 1994 respectively. Since 1999, the museum has been administered by the Central Government and renamed "National Taiwan Museum." Throughout the years of war and political transition and after twice being renamed, it stands as the only museum established during the colonial years, which is still in operation on its original site.
For a century, since the Qing dynasty, the museum has been standing in front of the Taipei Main Station, on the north-south and east-west pivotal crossroads of old Taipei. Its elegant architecture, abundant collections and unique geographical position have made the museum an important landmark in Taipei. In 1998, the Ministry of the Interior declared the museum a "National Heritage." The museum has witnessed Taiwan's history and recorded its natural and humanitarian developments. Through this window, one may catch a glimpse of Taiwan's evolution with regard to the fields of earth sciences, humanitarian developments, zoology, and botany.
The museum maintains its original scale, with five departments — anthropology, earth sciences, zoology, botany and education. The collection features specimens of Taiwan's indigenous animals and plants as well as cultural artifacts. Through its regular exhibitions and special exhibitions, publications and various educational programs, the museum is serving the public as an educational establishment.
System of Museums in Capital
"System of Museums in Capital" is a big project started by Council for Cultural Affairs in 2005. It takes National Taiwan Museum as the center and combine nearby historic monuments associated with Japanese rule in Taiwan such as 228 Memorial Park, , and Taipei Guest House. This system has become the best starting point to those who wants to know the history of Taiwan. This project includes:
* National Taiwan Museum
* old building
* Mitsui Bussan Company old building
The first two were originally used as the head office of the Land Bank of Taiwan . The recovery has started on February 8, 2007, and will be completed in May 2008.
The following historical buildings will also be restored and added into the system as museums:
* Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan Transportation Administration Railway Department , became the head office of Taiwan Railway Administration. It is under repair now and will be the Railway Museum in the future.
* 公賣局舊樟腦工廠: Completed in 1990
* 專賣局: Head office of the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation , it will be used for in industry exhibition the future.
* Special exhibitions
* International exhibitions
* Touring exhibitions: every year, the museum organizes exhibition tours selected from among the special exhibitions that are suitable for showing in natural history educational halls around the island.
* Permanent exhibitions:
**Section on Taiwan's pre-history culture.
**Section on Taiwan's indigenous culture.
* Outdoor exhibitions: includes Bronze buffaloes, Collection of Stone Tablets, relics of the Giant Stone Culture, Old cannons, and Old locomotives.