The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a valuable centre for the exhibition and the preservation of cultural heritages of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam. To date, the Museum has collected 15,000 artefacts, 2,190 slides, 42,000 photographs, 237 audiotapes, 373 videotapes and 25 CD-ROMs.
What is new at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology?
It is also a centre for ethnographic research employing many experts on the different ethnic groups. People come to the Museum just not to visit or entertain, but also to learn about these ethnic groups, their cultural diversity and the uniqueness of each group and region, as well as traditional values throughout the Vietnamese country. For this reason, national and international visitors, children and students, professionals and non-professionals are attracted to the Museum.
The artefacts of the Museum are not only priceless antiquities, but many are everyday objects, such as knives, baskets, garments, flutes, pipes and mats. These objects reflect tangible and intangible cultural heritages of the communities, representing lives and creative activities of the people. Thus, artefacts of the Museum are so varied that they are organised into different collections. The Museum has 54 collections of each individual ethnic group. Functionally classified, there are collections of clothing, jewellery, of agricultural tools, fishing instruments, weapons, household utensils and musical instruments. In addition, there are collections of artefacts related to the various religions, beliefs, wedding ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and other social and spiritual activities. Based on the specific collections, the Museum organises exhibitions and publishes books and catalogues in different formats in order to meet the needs of various audiences of different backgrounds.
The two-floor building, which is inspired by the Vietnamese famous and ancient bronze drum, holds the permanent collection. A granite bridge leads from the main gate to the entrance of the exhibition, creating a feeling of going up to a house-on-stilts which is very popular in many areas of Vietnam. On entering the Museum, the granite floor is decorated with dark tiles arranged in the shape of an S. This decoration symbolises the shape of the Vietnamese coastline, the earth is in dark colour and the ocean is light grey.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology has been designed to reflect the country's technical and scientific progress as well as the Museum’s objectives. First of all, the Museum was created for everybody. This is reflected in both the architecture and the display techniques. The Museum has ramps for physically challenged people and an electric elevator allowing access to the second floor. All steps have handrails that are very comfortable for older people. Learning from the experiences of many museums in the world, the museum texts are not in capital letters but small letters so that it is easy for people of different ages to read them. Panels are presented at reasonable heights, for both adults and children. In addition to objects, there are photographs, texts, videos and many reference materials, all of which can be brought into full play to inform visitors with different levels of education and different needs.
The objects are displayed as centrepieces because they reflect the everyday lives of the people. The Museum’s consistent point of view is that the display should be simple, so that visitors can admire the beauty and finesse of each ordinary and simple item. Although there are no illustrative paintings in the Museum, photographs and videos are used to illustrate people’s lives.
A restricted number of 700 objects and 280 photographs are displayed in the Museum’s permanent exhibits, which helps visitors avoid being distracted by an over-representation of artefacts.
The different collections are displayed according to language groups and territories. Most of the objects presented in the 97 showcases are original. The showcases have either one-sided windows or four-sided windows, depending on the artefacts presented. For example, some cases present many artefacts; others have only one significant object. Among the showcases in the display, 50 cases are accompanied by texts. Each object has a label denoting its name, the ethnic group and the place where it was created. There are also mannequins, maps, graphs, hardcover books, photographs, videotapes, cassette tapes, models, and 33 section panels. Though the Museum is not large, dioramas highlight certain customs or cultural features of ethnic groups.
Adding to the many layers of information available to visitors, the museum provides hundreds of panels composed of explanations, illustrative photographs and maps. Unfortunately, because of limited space, the texts are condensed. Not only do the texts and the object labels serve a national audience, they are also translated into English and French in order to facilitate international visitors. Thus, visitors experiencing the museum, even without a tour guide, are able to understand the main messages of the displays.
New technical solutions have been used throughout the Museum, such as focused lights. The light radiates inside and outside the glass windows focusing on the most significant aspect of each object in order to set off its beauty and draw visitors’ attention. In addition, a ventilation system has been installed within each display area to protect the objects from mould and decay.
The outdoor exhibition area is only large enough for the most popular architectural styles to be represented. Already presented are the Ede long house, the Tay stilt house, the Yao house half on stilts, half on earth, the Hmong house whose roof is made of pomu wood, the Viet house with tile roof and the Giarai tomb. There are future plans to present the Bahnar communal house, the Cham traditional house and the Hanhi house made with beaten walls. Between the houses, there are trees indigenous to the area of each house, zigzagging paths and a meandering stream crossed by small bridges. The outdoor museum is being realised step by step.
Virtual tour indoor
The permanent collection occupies the majority of the exhibition space. However, there is a separate area for the temporary exhibits. The permanent collection is divided into 9 main sections, each of which includes objects displayed in glass cases and dioramas.
Visitors first meet with a panel titled: “Vietnam, Historical and Cultural Periods”. Historical periods of the country are presented as well as information about the integration of ethnic groups, cultures and civilisations of Vietnam.
A large colour map shows the distribution of ethnic groups according to language groups. At the same time, three major sub-regions (North, Centre, South) indicate the ethnic groups’ affinity for settlement in particular elevations.
Five display panels show portraits of individuals within each of the 54 ethic groups classified according to five ethnic language families: Austro-Asiatic, Austronesian, Hmong-Yao, Thai-Kadai and Sino-Tibetan. At the same time, visitors can hear an audiotape of an individual from each ethnic group.
Virtual tour outdoor
The outdoor exhibition area is only large enough for the most popular architectural styles to be presented. Already presented are the Ede long house, the Tay stilt house, the Yao house half on stilts and half on earth, the Hmong house whose roof is made of pomu wood, the Viet house with tile roof, the Giarai tomb, the Bahnar communal house, the Cham traditional houae, the Hani house made with earth-beaten walls. There are future plans to present the Katu tomb and the surrounding completion of the Viet house. Between the houses, there are trees indigenous to the area of each house, zigzagging paths and a meandering stream crossed by small bridges. The outdoor museum is being realised step by step.
Open all days except Monday
Adress: Nguyen Van Huyen St, Cau Giay, Hanoi
Tel : (84-4) 37562193
Fax: (84-4) 38360351
Everydays on 8:30 am to 17:30 pm
Closed Mondays and Vietnam New Year
- Adult ticket: 25,000 VND
- Children ticket : 5,000 VND
(with discountable) : 3,000 VND: under 16 years old
- Free admission : Children under 6 years of age and to Vietnam’s ethnic minority members
Exhibition tour guides
- In Vietnamese: 30,000 VND
- In English: 50,000 VND
- In French: 50,000 VND
Photography: 50,000 VND
- Non profestional video: 50,000 VND
- Profestional video: 300,000 VND