Vietnamese are ignoring its country's archaic museums

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 A visitor takes in an exhibit at the History Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

Some 150 museums currently operate across Vietnam, displaying innumerable exhibits, including ones with rare material, regarding the country's history.

However, except for the Ho Chi Minh City-based War Remnants Museum, which is considered an abberation with its more than 674,000 visitors last year, more than half of which were foreign tourists, most of the others struggle to attract visitors, especially locals.

For instance, the History Museum is famous for its more than 200 year old mummy, but Pham Huu Cong, vice director of the museum, said the number of local visitors is just "so so," although they have made promotional efforts to lure companies and schools in recent years.

On the other hand, many foreign tourists visit the museum to learn more about Vietnam's culture and history, Cong said.

In fact, as Thanh Nien reporters observed, it is rare that museums receive return visitors, lest they be researchers, students majoring in related fields, or film directors and scriptwriters.

Visits to local museums are compulsory activities for many local grade schools and universities, usually once per year.

When asked why not increase the number of visits, several schools' representatives told Thanh Nien that students were actually not interested in museums.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Cong attributed the unremarkable number of local visitors to the History Museum to its lack of tour guides and modern architecture. 

Another difficulty is that the museum's capacity to display objects is restricted by its size of less than 2,000 square meters, according to Cong.

He said they have 45,000 objects to display, but only 3,000 can be shown at any one time. They had planned to build a couple of rooms dedicated specifically for students to learn more about traditional careers from the past, but they ended up scrapping the plan due to the limited space, he added.

The same situation is not exclusive to the History Museum.

Nguyen Van My, director of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Lua Viet Tours Company, told Thanh Nien that most Vietnamese museums are "poor, outdated and plain," and that they are at least 50 years behind, compared to museums worldwide.

"Many people are surprised to realize that although Vietnam has a fierce history, it's hard to find a proper museum here," My said.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, vice director of HCMC Youth House, said the main problem with local museums is its display methodology, in addition to "unpolished" tour guides who possess "unattractive" communication skills.

"I have visited most of museums in HCMC, but I found them boring and plain, even children did not bother to look at objects when (we took them) there," Huong said.

Dr. Ha Minh Hong, dean of history department at the HCMC University of Social Sciences and Humanity, said recently he returned to a couple of museums that he had not visited in 20 years, and found them nearly unchanged.

"During such long time, they (the museums) should have made some breakthroughs that could surprise us. But, in fact, it did not happen like I expected," Hong said.

The government needs to make plans to renovate local museums, he said, stressing that the ultimate solution would be to send officials and staff to be trained in how to professionally organize and operate international museums.

Nguyen Thi Hau, a doctor of archeology and deputy chief of the HCMC Institute for Development Research, agreed, saying that once staff are trained and equipped with new knowledge and methodologies, and the infrastructure and organization are improved, Vietnamese museums will attract more visitors.

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