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Vietnam National Museum of History

14/11/2014 08:54 2713
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The Dong Son culture plays an important role in the development of Vietnamese history. It proved to be material foundation for the establishment of the first kingdom of ancient Vietnam. In the action plan made by the Vietnam National Museum of History in 2014, the celebration of 90 years of discovery and research on Dong Son culture is one of our main tasks.

In this circumstance, the research on and promoting Dong Son cultural values is said to be necessary in providing scientific information and practical values. After 90 years, it is a high time for scholars to review and publicize new discoveries about this famous culture. Simultaneously, through those actions, more than ever, our country's cultural historical traditions need to be evoked, confirmed and appreciated.

In November 2014, the Vietnam National Museum of History will organize a seminar and an exhibition on Dong Son culture. It will be attended by scholars from the Archaeological Institute, Archaeological Faculty (University of Social Sciences and Humanities of Hanoi), Archaeological Association, and Cultural Heritage Association, together with scholars, cultural curators and museums nationwide.

In this article, we would like to make a brief on the museum's activities on researching and promoting the Dong Son cultural values in the past years.

1. Dong Son culture researches and excavations

The Vietnam National Museum of History -VNMH (formerly the Museum of Vietnamese History) was set up from the Louis Finot Museum, which built by the French in 1928 – 1932 and exhibited the Far East fine arts. The Dong Son culture was discovered in 1924, thus, the researches, excavations and collecting works on Dong Son culture implemented by the VNMH have connected with the history of discovery of this culture. The process of discovery of Dong Son culture made by the VNMH can be divided into 2 stages:

- From 1900 (establishment of EFFEO) to 1957:

Although the Dong Son archaeological site was discovered and excavated officially in 1924, many artifacts such as bronze axes, drums, daggers, spearhead, chest plates, bracelets... have been detected in the northern deltas of Vietnam including previous Son Tay, Ha Dong, previous Phuc Yen, Ninh Binh and Thanh Hoa provinces. Most of collections at Louis Finot Museum were bought from two French people, D’Argence and Demangeand. Of which, the most notable objects were Ngoc Lu bronze drum (1903) and Hoang Ha bronze drum (1937).

After many excavations made by Pajot, by 1924 to 1939, the Swedish archaeologist O. Janse had researched and excavated many sites in Thanh Hoa. Some objects secured were kept back at Louis Finot, some were sent to France and some to USA (O.Janse was sponsored by Smithsonian Institute).

In 1936, EFFEO made a decision together with a decree issued by Bao Dai King, on setting up the Thanh Hoa Archaeology Museum (located in Thanh Hoa). The museum was curated by Pajot and exhibited bronze collections, including bronze drums. Almost exhibits there were brought from Louis Finot Museum and from Pajot's excavations. This revealed a fact that the French scholars had realized the importance of Dong Son culture in Vietnam in particular and in the Far East in general.

- 1958 – up to now:

After it was transferred to the History Museum in 1958, the museum changed the missions from exhibiting fine arts to the history of the nation.

Aiming at adding and clarifying Dong Son collections left by French, the museum's staffs and an archaeologist team from Ministry of Culture implemented researches and excavations on Dong Son and Thieu Duong archaeological sites (Thanh Hoa). The results were so great. A number of Dong Son tombs were discovered with many unique and valuable objects unearthed and brought to the museum. Around Hong River Delta, many Dong Son archaeological sites have been marked on the archaeological maps. Many rare and precious objects have been discovered and preserved at the museum, like Dao Thinh situla, Viet Khe boat-shaped coffin, Chau Can, Cau Vuc bronze arrowhead collections (Co Loa)...

One of the most notable studies made by the VNMH is the demonstration on the origination of Dong Son culture. By that, Dong Son culture should have originated locally. While in the past, Western scholars saw it as a funnel to catch the civilizations from China and India.

Collaborating with Korean experts to excavate Dinh Trang site, Ha Noi

In recent years, the VNMH have strengthened the works of research and excavations on Dong Son archaeological sites. We have collaborated locally and internationally to do so. For example, we have co-operated with China, South Korea and Japan partners to excavate archaeological sites as Ma Tre, Dinh Trang (Co Loa, Hanoi), Bai Coi (Ha Tinh), Xom Den (Phu Tho), Nghia Lap (Vinh Phuc). Such implementations have helped to clarify the diversity and unity as well as the exchange and prestige of Dong Son culture in the country and in the region.

Ma Tre archaeological site excavation (Co Loa, Ha Noi)

To meet the requirement of exhibition and promotion of Dong Son cultural heritage, and to educate and propaganda the history of the nation, together with the field researching and excavating, the VNMH has pushed up the collecting works to enrich our Dong Son collections, especially new discoveries in the Central Highlands and South of Vietnam. At present, VNMH owns around 10.000 objects of Dong Son culture.

Apart from the collecting works, the documenting works, the material exchange, translations and building the records and resources for Dong Son culture and its related information (Vietnamese ancient people's life, production life, religious...) have been consolidated.

Printing and publishing has been paid attention. We have issued books about the results of the carried researches and excavations on Dong Son culture. Namely, "Collection of objects found at the Viet Khe ancient tomb preserved at the VNMH" (1965), "Some issues on the period of Hung King and the nation building" (1969), "Dong Son bronze drums discovered in Viet Nam" (1975), "The ancient cemetery of Chau Can" (1977), "Ma Tre archaeological site" (2008), "Dinh Trang archaeological site" (2014); or publishing on exhibitions such as "Dong Son culture in Vietnam" (Malaysia 2014), "The ancient civilizations in Viet Nam" (South Korea 2014), "Royal Arts in Vietnam" (France 2014)... On the occasion of 90th anniversary of Dong Son culture, we will publish a seminar's bulletin and a catalog of Dong Son culture's objects.

2. Promoting Dong Son cultural heritage

Promoting Dong Son cultural heritage is a key task in the activities of the VNMH. We have spent a large space for exhibiting the Dong Son culture. In those galleries, we equip modern devices for guiding and support the audiences.

Visitors at the permanent gallery for the exhibition of Dong Son culture

Besides, the temporary exhibitions on Dong Son culture have been hold locally and internationally. The exhibitions launched in Malaysia, South Korea, France and next Germany have presented the best of Dong Son culture to international community, thus, contributed to promote Vietnamese culture to the world.

On this occasion, the museum will collaborate with local museums to launch a temporary exhibition to showcase new discoveries and representative artifacts of Dong Son culture.

Furthermore, VNMH also attracts importance to the mobile exhibitions. In the war time against America, the museum organized many mobile exhibitions on Hung King time in many provinces.

The VNMH have also tried to cast the bronze drums for 4 times. Such works have attracted interests of public and got high appreciations by scholars.

For the works of preservation, VNMH has made plans for building laboratories and a research center. We have constructed a preservative process to maintain the objects, especially Dong Son culture's artifacts of bronze, ceramic, wooden and fabric materials. The research center to be built in the future aims at meeting the real demands of the museum itself and also to transfer technology and experiences to other museums locally.

In the works of promotion of Dong Son cultural heritage, we have paid attention to the marketing and communication locally and internationally. We have launched a column of Dong Son culture on our website and posted many articles and writings on Dong Son culture. It seems to have attracted many readers.

3. Research and promote Dong Son cultural heritage in the coming time

In the coming time, VNMH will co-operate with organizations locally and internationally to do researches and excavations at overall-scale on Dong Son archaeological sites to clarify and prove on the relationship and influence of Dong Son culture on the cultures in the Central Highlands and the South.

We will push up the co-operation with Laos and Cambodia on researching about Dong Son culture. In the past time, we have worked with Malaysia and Indonesia who known to be foreign countries that discovered mostly Dong Son bronze drums.

Anyway, we will keep collecting the objects of Dong Son culture and fulfill the documents of collections, digitalize the documents to make the museum an information center for Dong Son culture in particular and our Vietnamese cultural heritages in general.

Dr. Nguyen Van Doan (Deputy Director of the VNMH)

EN: Tran Trang