US$524million museum and the shortage of funds for heritage preservation

Posted on September 18, 2012

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VND11.27 trillion ($524 million) is the amount of money that will be spent to build the new National Museum of History in Hanoi. Meanwhile, if several billion dong was quickly poured for the renovation of Tram Gian Buddhist Temple, this national relic should have not been harmed.

The perspective of the new National History Museum. The main building will be built on about 20,483m2.


The current National Museum of History. 

A few months ago, when VietNamNet’s correspondents wrote reports on museums in Hanoi, we heard the Deputy Director of the National History Museum to mention about a project to build a new museum on a vast area of land near the West Lake.

And over one week ago, the Ministry of Construction sent to the Ministry of Planning and Investment a report on the construction of the Museum of National History with investment capital up to more than VND11 trillion.

Exactly–this project, with a total investment of up to VND11.28 billion, will be built by capital from the state budget. The museum will be built at the new residential area of West Lake in Hanoi, with a total area of nearly 10 hectares.

The objective of this work is to become a modern museum to meet the conservation, preservation, collection, and display of artifacts to serve the needs of visitors, scientific research, education… and many other functions.

Nobody knows that when the new national history museum opens in 2016, the former National Museum of History will be used for what purpose?

It is known that this massive project will be developed by the Ministry of Construction and be managed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST). The later ministry will be also the developer of some project components (content and form of display).

If this project is carried out in accordance with the roadmap, the construction will last from November 2012 to May 2016.

The National Museum of History will be checked and taken over and then handed over to the MOCST from July 2016. One this work is completed, it promises to be one of the largest museums in the Southeast Asia.

It should be said that the National History Museum is an ambitious work, which is not only large in size but also in terms of investment. Upon hearing information about this museum, a lot of people working in the cultural and museum fields, were very surprised and said that this is like a joke because in the current tough economic times, the amount of money invested in such a museum is too big and too hard to imagine.

But their biggest worry is that when this huge project is completed, how we will operate and manage it to promote its efficiency. And, what will we display in the huge campus of the museum?


The Hanoi Museum was built at the cost of VND2.3 trillion (US$115 million) without being effectively used.

The Hanoi Museum, with investment capital of up to VND2.3 trillion ($115 million), was inaugurated two years ago. But it is still referred to as a hollow shell without content. This museum has almost no customers and…nothing to display.

It opened two years ago but the Museum of Hanoi is still in the test phase of display and it will officially open in 2014 as planned. After one year and a half opening its door, the museum had only 130,000 visitors. As the museum was so quiet, the management board sometimes hired the museum’s spaces for weddings.

When the lesson from the VND2.3 trillion museum is still burning, the story about a bigger museum, with investment of 5 times higher has caused many people concern. The crucial problem is now how effectively explore existing museums, not to invest trillion dong to build new museums that have nothing to display.

Some experts have expressed their worry about the National History Museum project, especially, how will it be operated? The human resource to manage that huge museum? The plan and display script? The strategy to attract viewers? The project implementation is scheduled to start November 2012 but people do not see any professional activity being started.

In a conversation with VietNamNet about museums in Vietnam, Prof. Nguyen Van Huy, former director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, a member of the scientific advisory council for the construction and management board of the National History Museum shared as follows:

“Currently we have a movement to build giant museums, which are hollow after being built, because there is nothing to show, there is no person in charge of research and organization of exhibitions. Visitors do not know what to see to fit their needs. ”

The question how to make the National History Museum operate efficiently is certainly not easy to answer.

In a separate development which is completely on the opposite, involving a national historic building – Tram Giang temple, is a topic that is still very hot.

Through the presentation of related sides, it turns out that the Chuong My District People’s Committee (where hosts Tram Gian temple) asked the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism to together petition the Hanoi authorities’ permission to restore Tram Gian Temple and Hanoi government agreed on the policy from November 2009.

But until July 2011, the Hanoi Department Culture, Sports and Tourism proposed the Hanoi administration to allocate funding for the temple’s renovations. One year later, the Hanoi City People’s Committee approved the above plan in written. But since then the restoration project remained dormant due to lack of investment capital, although many items of the temple were severely degraded leading to the temple’s management board to arbitrarily raise money, dismantle the main structures, causing the painful story as we have known.

If funding for the restoration was allocated earlier, the temple would have not been harmed.

If only a small amount of capital from museum projects was extracted to invest in restoration of historical monuments, it would have been definitely different.

If money was poured in restoration in time, many structures in the Tram Gian temple would not have been chopped apart.

Hanh Phuong

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