Historic relics suffer from long-standing neglect

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As Vietnam prepares to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the capital city next month, historic assets and vestiges in the museum in Hanoi as well as in other places in the country languish for want of funds and proper care.


Twenty-eight years in the planning, the Hanoi Museum does not have enough space for all its historic objects to be preserved and displayed.


The museum has received items from all archaeological excavations in the city area since 1982, including the arms depot from the Le dynasty (1428 - 1788) found 30 years ago and those unearthed from around the Co Loa Citadel belonging to the Au Lac kingdom (258 - 207 BC) found in May this year.


These items are being kept temporarily at different places in Hanoi and it's not easy for any historian to enter, even with a reference from concerned agency, so no one knows exactly how many of items there are and what their value is.


Several objects have not been seen again by archeologists themselves after they were unearthed.


Several years ago, Prof. Nguyen Minh Tuong heard the museum had 78 stamps used by the Hanoi administration a long time ago. So he went to the Hung Ky pagoda, one of the temporary stores in the museum, but he was not let in although he had a reference note from Vietnam History Institute.


In fact, the sermon hall of the pagoda has been used to store objects from the museum for the past 40 years.


Monks at the pagoda issue their sermons in the worship area instead, and visitors to the pagoda have to wait until the sermon is over to enter it.


The head monk at the pagoda said the city has many times promised to give back the lecture hall, where humidity has caused the wall paint to come off, but there are no signs of it happening any time soon.


A lot of other items have been kept at the History Museum for dozens of years.


Nguyen Van Hung, director of Hanoi Museum, said "the History Museum has pointedly asked their space back for years and we have not figured out what to do."


Thousands of other relics have been kept outdoors for years right at the excavation site, covered only with canvas, including the two most beautiful tombs found in June dating back thousands of years.


A guard at the tomb site said he doesn't know much about the value of the tombs but "it's was very wrong that you treat the remains of ancestors that way."


Some relics have been put in plastic bags and piled in some house corners at different places.


Museum director Hung said he doesn't know when the relics will have a new house. Only the Hanoi Construction Department and the project managers would know that.


The museum is among projects that are supposed to be completed by October 1 to celebrate Hanoi's millennial anniversary.


Museum in name


Cultural researchers call the Hue Museum "the museum in name" as it was established more than 20 years ago but does not have its own building.


Nguyen Huu Thong, head of the Hue Department of Vietnam Culture and Arts, even disagreed that the museum has a name because "none of Hue residents know about it."


Le Van Thuyen, editor-in-chief of the magazine Hue Xua & Nay (Hue: Past & Present), said "If we say that Hue doesn't have its own museum, no one is likely to believe it, but Hue really doesn't have a museum."


"I don't know why Hue invests too little in culture. What kind of a festival city, culture city it is when it has none of the three basic things an exhibition center, museum and a concert hall."


Thong said the museum started to search for items when it established in 1989.


It didn't have much money and couldn't get much help from other district governments, but has managed to collect more than 5,000 pottery, bronze and stone items that reveal a lot about the cultural lives of the Hue people.


Huynh Dinh Ket, director of the museum, recalled that he once took one tenth of an ounce of gold of his family to buy a precious statute for the museum but the seller wanted more.


"If only the museum had its own budget, many precious items would never slip away," Ket said.


In 1990, Hue People's Committee gave some of its space to store the relics.


But since 1998, these have been relocated many times, and the museum staff has also reduced from seven to two - a director and a researcher.


Thuyen said the city government has promised to give the premises of the People's Committee to the museum as the committee is set to move to a new building.


"But the more important thing is to train enthusiastic and professional officials to work for the museum.


"The city has not planned this," he said.


Nguyen Duy Hien, director of Hue Festival Center, said the city government has many times announced resolutions to invest in building the museum but nothing has happened since.


Similar stories are being played out in Quang Nam, Nghe An, Can Tho and Kien Giang provinces, where relics are kept outdoors or museums are closed, waiting to be upgraded.

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