Museum without a home

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The Vietnam National Museum of Nature project was approved by the prime minister in 2002, but nothing much has happened since.

The Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology began laying the groundwork for a natural science and history museum in 1998 and submitted its plan to the government four years later.

The project started life with an office in Hanoi's Hoang Quoc Viet Street, and that's pretty well all there is still.

What is meant to be 10 hectares of indoor and outdoor exhibits remains on paper, and will stay that way until a suitable piece of land is found.

Pham Van Luc, director of the homeless museum, waxes lyrical about what will be.

"The exhibits will be illuminated and enlivened with specialized equipment. Visitors will be able to switch on devices placed next to the exhibits and learn useful things through documents, film, even 3D film," Luc says.

The planned 10-hectare museum would be divided into two categories including an outdoor exhibition covering two thirds of the total land and the rest for an indoor area with various display divisions - the space, earth, and creatures; natural resources of Vietnam; reservation of the country's nature and natural resources; and the development history of scientific technology, according to Luc.

About 1,000 rare animals have been collected for the museum and are in storage for now.

Beside snails, snakes and butterflies in abundance, there are some 20 rhinoceros horns, 300 elephant tusks, six tigers and other animals waiting to go on public display.

No land, no museum

That's well and good but it's been seven years since the project was approved.

The Hanoi People's Committee agreed to allot 6.7 hectares of land for the museum in 2002, but the area was deemed too small so the search for a suitable site continued.

Between 2002 and 2008, Hanoi's Planning and Architecture Department considered and rejected three pieces of land in Tu Liem District and Quoc Oai Commune.

In each of the past three years the central government gave VND1-1.5 billion (US$58,480-87,720) to pay for surveying, setting up barriers and other preliminary construction work, Luc says.

But, as there was no land, the money had to be returned each time.

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