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History museum artefacts to spill outdoors

Open-air theatre: Workers maintain the garden at the Museum of History in Ha Noi. The museum will soon launch a much-expanded outdoor exhibition area aimed at improving public awareness of the country’s rich cultural history. — VNS Photo Thuy Quynh
HA NOI — Ha Noi’s Museum of History is planning to discard its dry and dusty image with an innovative outdoor exhibition to be held late this August.

"We cannot cram Viet Nam’s rich history of thousands of years into the museum’s indoor area of 2,500sq.m," says museum director Pham Quoc Quan. "Therefore, we decided that an open-air display was essential."

Capital city dwellers will soon get the chance to walk among some of the Museum’s larger-than-life ancient relics, displayed in ways that evoke their original use.

"In order to relive the historical atmosphere, we will try to arrange the artefacts in a position they used to be," says Quan. "For example, a stone gate will be laid next to an ancient sycamore (fig) tree, or staircase bannisters or stone military aide statues will be put alongside an entrance."

Live performances of traditional music will add to the ambience.

The exhibition is just one of the signs that the History Museum is starting to move with the times.

"The time has come to breathe some fresh air into museum activities, and museum-goers habits as well," Quan admits.

"Revigorating museum activities is crucial to attract more visitors, but besides money, the public conception is one of the reasons to bare the museum renovation," Quan says.

He points to international examples of less conventional exhibitions that have attracted large crowds.

"In Belgium, there was an exhibition of antiques called Bluebird and Peach Blossom. Sweden has held an exhibition about the pop group ABBA."

The outdoor exhibition will feature around 100 artefacts in total, as large in aesthetic and historical value as they are in stature.

They include Cham sculptures, a culture which flourished in the central region of Viet Nam until the 14th century.

Artefacts from the Ly-Tran (10th-14th centuries) and Le, Nguyen dynasties (15th-18th centuries) respectively, will also be on show.

"It’s certainly a challenge for us to blend the artefacts into their surroundings while protecting them from natural or human damage," says Quan.

Though the exhibited artefacts are made of stone and believed to be capable of withstanding weather conditions, roofs will be made to cover them, and protective chemicals will also be applied.

As an extra precaution, the exhibits will be displayed on a rotating basis. This has the additional benefit of creating diversity for visitors who may want to visit a second time, says Quan.

The open-air exhibition is part of a museum preservation project that kicked off in 1998. The whole project will cost VND6 billion (US$400,000), of which VND500 million was allocated for the outdoor display.

By international standards, upgrades should take place once every five to seven years. However, the Museum of History’s last upgrade was in 1973.

The museum has increased the number of artefacts being displayed in a more scientific way from 1,700 to 7,000. Since then, it has attracted between 60,000 to 70,000 visitors a year, triple the previous years’ figure. Fifty-five per cent of these are domestic visitors.

The museum also has plans to co-operate with private collectors in order to broaden its activities further, Quan reveals.

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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