其中，舉世聞名的大英博物館（British Museum），就因緣際會地收藏了大約370 件早期臺灣文物，其中絕大多數是臺灣原住民文物。綜觀而言，大英博物館的臺灣藏品，主要入藏於十九世紀末期至二十世紀初期，是特殊時代脈絡下外來者與臺灣交會碰撞的結果。雖然文物數量並不算多，物件來源和類型也零星分歧；但這些物件卻難得地留存了珍貴的過去物質生活訊息，也呼應了臺灣社會與西方接觸互動的片段早期歷史。即使一百多年之後的今天，這些珍貴的海外物質文化遺產，仍是可以建構跨國和跨文化連結的具體媒介，也是可供當代源鄉社會活化應用的重要文化資源。
本書的誕生，歷經非常繁複冗長的海外調查研究、資料數位化和編輯出版等過程，耗費時間總計超過十年。在這漫長的期間，每一個階段都要感謝許多人的參與、支持和協助。首先是國科會支持數位典藏與數位學習國家型科技計畫分項下「臺灣民族學藏品資料跨國研究與交流計畫」研究經費，讓我可以在2007年和2008 年，前往大英博物館進行最基本也最重要的文物調查研究工作。跨國研究過程中，要特別感謝倫敦大學Dr. Michael Rowlands幫忙啟動初期聯絡；以及大英博物館亞洲部Dr. Jane Portal、Dr. Jan Stuart、Dr. Brian Durrans、Dr. Anouska Komlosy和Ms. Imogen Laing等大力協助，才能完成入庫逐件檢視研究文物。此外，也非常感謝計畫先後任助理們如蘇郁晴、劉姿蘭、吳昭潔、許湘彩、郭欣諭、張詩雅、徐瑛蓮和吳佳錚等協助文物拍攝、資料整理建檔與圖像處理工作；以及臺灣大學數位人文中心項潔教授、蔡炯民博士和陳怡君小姐協助建置數位資料庫，讓文物數位資料能夠在出版前先公開上網。
Preface : Material Heritage in Overseas Museums and Contemporary Source Communities
By Chia-yu Hu
Collecting is an essential step that a museum preserves cultural relics, but it is also a process that cultural relics detach from their original source communities. The process of collecting is often entangled with complex social relations and multiple power agencies. Especially, objects which had been collected across oceans and preserved in the overseas museums usually involved in the process of globalization and cross-cultural collecting. Many Taiwanese objects have also embarked on similar journeys and have been transported to the major museums in Europe and America since the middle of the nineteenth century. Following the footsteps of Western consular officials, missionaries, explorers and researchers who visited Taiwan, these Taiwanese relics, scattered abroad, usually have been concealed quietly in museum vaults over decades without public awareness. Among them, the British Museum (BM) has preserved 370 pieces of Taiwanese artifacts, most of which are indigenous artifacts.
Generally speaking, these Taiwanese artifacts were mainly acquired in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, under the special encounters between the West and Taiwan. The number of these Taiwanese objects might not be abundant; the sources of them are not clearly recorded. But, many of these objects not only have retained precious messages of the early material life in Taiwan, but also echoed interactive history between the Taiwanese society and the West. Even after more than a hundred years, these artifacts in the overseas museums can still act as the concrete medium for constructing transnational and cross-cultural linkages; they can also be applied as important cultural resources for revitalizing contemporary communities.
The birth of this book has been through very lengthy processes. Different stages of works, such as conducting overseas investigation, organizing and digitizing data of objects, as well as compiling and editing the book, have spent more than 10 years in total. During the long period, I am extremely grateful that many people participated, supported and assisted at each stage. First, the Council of National Science and Technology had funded my research project of “Digitization and International Information Exchange on Taiwanese Ethnological Collections in Overseas Museums” from 2007 to 2008 under the “National Digital Collection and Digital Learning Program”. With the project funding, I could travel to the British Museum and conduct the most essential and important works on examining their Taiwanese artifacts in those two years. In the process of conducting overseas investigation, my thanks are given to Prof. Michael Rowlands at the University College London who helped me to get initial contact with the BM. Besides, without the support and help of Dr. Jane Portal, Dr. Jan Stuart, Dr. Brian Durrans, Dr. Anouska Komlosy, and Ms. Imogen Laing of the Asia Department at the BM, I could not finish studying and researching the Taiwan collections at BM. In addition, I am grateful to all project assistants during these years, such as Yu-ching Su, Tzulan Liu, Chao-chieh Wu, Shiang-cai Shu, Hsin-yu Guo, Shih-ya Chang, Ying-lien Shu and Chia-cheng Wu for their work in taking photos, organizing and keying data, as well as processing images of the objects. I would also like to give special thanks to Professor Jieh Hsiang, Dr. Chiung-ming Tsai and Ms. Yi-chun Chen of the Digital Humanities Center at the National Taiwan University who helped to build an on-line digital database and let the Taiwanese artifacts preserved at the BM available for the public access before publication.
Finally, this book cannot be accomplished without the help of the co-editor, Dr. Niki Alsford, who is an expert of Taiwanese history. From the perspective of a historical anthropologist, he provided important background information on the collecting histories. In addition, I thank the executive editor of the NTU Press, Ms. Tzu-ling Yu, for her patient correction and meticulous polishing, as well as the artistic designer, Ms. Fong-ju Yu, for her exquisite design. We have selected 165 pieces of objects with different types and from different cultural groups presented in this book. For each object, we have made cultural-historical interpretation and displayed object photo for reference. Through the publication of this book, on the one hand, we tend to let people understand the complex contexts and agencies behind cross-cultural collecting. On the other hand, we tend to reflect the local aesthetics as well as the grateful values of cultural diversities in Taiwan. It is hoped that the material heritage of Taiwan preserved in overseas museums can be linked to the Taiwanese society again and continue to create cultural vitality in the contemporary life of the source communities.