5 years on, Hanoi's multimillion-dollar museum still fails to justify its costs

By Thanh Nien Staff, Thanh Nien News

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 Hanoi Museum, invested with $103.59 million, was opened to the public in October 2010. Photo credit: kienviet.vn
When the Hanoi Museum was opened to the public in October 2010 among many other grandeur projects to celebrate the capital city's 1,000th anniversary, many compared it to famous museums around the world.
They highly praised the state-of-the-art design of an inverted pyramid with six floors, including two underground ones.
Now in retrospect they were probably too quick with their compliments. 
Criticisms came especially strong during 2012, when many parts of the VND2.3 trillion (US$103.59 million) building were found falling apart, prompting many shutdowns for repairs.
What's inside has also been a constant disappointment, even though the issue is often raised by local media. 
The museum's display crisis has been obviously not fixed. During a visit on Thursday, Thanh Nien reporters counted fewer than 10 visitors inside the massive museum. 
Two of its floors were mostly closed for repair, while the rest was dominated by objects excavated from the 11th-century Thang Long Imperial Citadel.
In a comment on the museum's collections, Nguyen Van Huy, former director of Hanoi-based Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, said they were "just for filling up spaces".
Meanwhile, an expert with the Vietnam National Museum of History, also in Hanoi, doubted the accuracy of the Hanoi Museum's statistics which showed 111,825 visitors last year, up 78 percent from 2012.
The figure "did not feel right," he said.
How the museum came up with that number is a question, considering that it does not sell tickets, according to the expert, who wished to stay unnamed.
'Very difficult'
Guns are displayed at Hanoi Museum. Photo: Ngoc Thang
Although the Hanoi Museum is managed by the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the department is not responsible for the objects displayed inside.
In fact, the Department of Construction has been tasked with buying objects as approved by the city's People's Committee, Truong Minh Tien, vice director of the culture department, told Thanh Nien.
He claimed that it was "very difficult" to collect objects on the approved list, as they would have to verify their origins, and buy them from private collectors.
Not to mention many of the objects are no longer available or their prices are now much higher, according to the official.
On the other hand, Vinaconex Corporation, which was contracted to build the museum under a built-and-transfer arrangement, recently reported that the Department of Construction owed it over VND1.58 trillion ($71.56 million) at the end of March. 
Pham Chi Son, spokesperson of Vinaconex, said his company demanded the construction department to pay interests, considering that the debt was due in 2010 when it took over the museum.
However, local authorities have given them no responses so far, Son said.

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