National Museum of Vietnamese History
History and museums
The National Museum of Vietnamese History (Vietnamese: Viện Bảo tàng Lịch sử Việt Nam; Hán tự: 院寶藏歷史越南) is located in the Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi, Vietnam. It has over 200,000 exhibits displayed in an area of 2,200 square metres (24,000 sq ft), covering times from prehistory up to the 1947 revolution and founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The museum is situated at the back of the Hanoi Opera House. It is in 1 Trang Tien Street, 216 Tran Quang Khai Street, Hanoi.
The museum building used to be the archaeological research institution of the French School of the Far East under French colonial rule (Louis Finot École française d'Extrême-Orient EFEO), which opened in 1910. This was extensively refurbished in 1920, and redesigned between 1926 and 1932 by the architect Ernest Hébrard. It is considered a successful blend of French colonial and traditional Vietnamese architecture, called Indochina architecture. The museum was taken over by the Government of Vietnam in 1958 and started expansion of the artifact collections to cover eastern arts and national history. It was formally opened for public viewing on 3 September 1958. The museum's exhibits highlight Vietnam's prehistory (about 300,000–400,000 years) up to the August 1945 Revolution.
The museum is housed in a colonial French building which is a cupola shaped edifice which appears like a Pagoda. The design of the building is an amalgamation of French and Chinese architecture known as Indochina architecture. The building designed by Hebrard incorporates double walls and balconies for a natural ventilation system and protection from sunshine. The exhibition area is more than 2,200 square metres (24,000 sq ft) with exhibits arranged chronologically. It is divided into five major sections: Section 1 covers period from the prehistoric period from the Stone Age (30,000–40,000 years ) to 4,000–5,000 years ago; Section 2 has displays from the time of national building during the Tran Dynasty; Section 3 has exhibits from the period of the Ho Dynasty to the August 1945 Revolution; and Section 4 has artifacts of the Champa stone sculptures. The museum showcases Vietnam's history with very large collection of about 200,000 items, covering the Neolothic age, Bronze age, Sa Hunh, Oc Eo, and Hung periods, Ngyyen dynasty, Cham period, and also northern Vietnam's Dong Son, a culture which existed about 1000 BC-100 AD. These period exhibits are in the main building. The exhibits highlight communism and depict the rule of the French colonists as cruel.
Exhibits in the museum include Hung era and Neolothic mortuaries, Bronze Age implements such as axe heads, and Cham period artifacts. There is an intimidating sculpture of Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, which has 1,000 eyes and arms. Also on display are the 13 Nguyễn dynasty emperors' ornamented throne, dresses and other antiquities. These include the large Dong Son drums, which are symbolic of Vietnamese culture. At ground level the display consist of stone implements, pottery, and ornaments, up to 1400 AD. On the first floor the exhibits pertain to the monarchic reign from the time of the Dinh and Le eras of 900 ADs to Vietnam's last emperors; these are decorative items such as a chest of drawers inlaid with mother-of-pearl, cylindrical containers of enamel (these are funerary jars), ceramics and bright lacquer ware. There is a stele which was found during an archaeological excavation with an inscription at a monument labeled G1, which is dedicated to God Harivamsesvara by Harivarman I (ca. 1137) is preserved in the museum. The exhibits of new artifacts cover Central Vietnam, Central Highlands, South Vietnam and also an old shipwreck near Cu Lao Cham Island.
The museum has signage in English, but this is inadequate to express all that is on display in the museum.
To popularize Vietnam's history from the past to the present, the Museum administration organized an exhibition of 450 artifacts (416 from 13 Vietnamese museums and the balance from 8 European museums) in Austria and Belgium from September 2003 to November 2004. The Royal Museum of Arts and History (Kingdom of Belgium) and the Vienna Ethnology Museum (Republic of Austria) were associated with this exhibition, which was titled "Vietnam – Past and Present."