According to ICOM (International Council of Museums), “A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment”. According to Article 4 of Amending and supplementing a number of articles of the Law on cultural heritages, “Museum means a cultural institution with the function of collecting, preserving, researching, displaying and introducing cultural heritages and physical evidences of the nature, humans and their living environment, to meet public research, study, sightseeing and cultural enjoyment needs.”
In a history and culture documentary of ancient Greek, from the third century BC in Alexandria city – an Egyptian-Greek cultural center at that time- there was Alexandrian Museum (the Library of Alexandria) built by King Ptoleme, he called it “museion”. This “museion” maintained a number of artifacts and manuscripts. Here many famous scientists such as Euclid and Archimedes worked, met and exchanged knowledge. Since then, after thousand years of formation and development, Museum has changed in many aspects from a place for scientists, intellectuals, and elite to a work of public service as now..
In Vietnam, the first museums established by the French in the early 20th century include National Oceanographic Museum (founded in 1910, Nha Trang), Geological Museum (founded in 1914, Hanoi), Museum of Cham Sculpture (It was Henri Parmentier Museum founded 1918, Da Nang), Blanchard De la Brosse Museum (1929, Saigon), L. Finot Museum (1932, Hanoi). So far, these museums have made their own mark and promoted their role totally well.
In Hoi An, the first Exhibition was founded in 1977. After 42 years of construction and development, Hoi An has established a system of six thematic display areas (museums). Hoi An Museums have contributed to honor, introduce and widely promote local cultural traditions, long-term serving for research, education, sightseeing, and tourism.
On the occasion of International Museum Day 18 May, 2019, we look back the process of formation and development of Hoi An museums over the years.
After liberation in 1975, Hoi An Party Committee and people were aware of the importance of preserving the traditional cultural values of ancestor. It is the heroic struggle spirit that helped us won the final victory. Therefore, the Exhibition of Revolutionary History was established in 1977, just two years after the liberation of the country. Here is displaying a total of 378 artifacts introducing the history of heroic struggle of Hoi An army and people from pre-times uprising until 1975. The exhibition creates a connection with future generations, ensuring that the spirit of patriotism and struggle will be preserved and further promoted in the construction and development of the country after the war. Initially, the Exhibiton was located at 12 Phan Chu Trinh, then transferred to Sa Huynh Culture Museum at No. 149 Tran Phu. When Hoi An Museum was established in 2015 at No. 10B Tran Hung Dao, the Exhibition of Revolutionary History was put on display here so far.
On March 19, 1985, Hoi An ancient town was recognized as Vietnam National Cultural and Historical Site, a convergence place of many valuable cultural and intangible cultural heritage values. Although this is a difficult time of Hoi An, local government also realized the importance and urgency of propaganda to raise the sense of respect and preserve the heritage values for local people and tourists. Therefore, Museum of Hoi An history and culture wan founded 10/11/1989 displaying 473 artifacts and documents. It presents the history of Hoi An through three periods: Pre-proto-historic period (2nd century before), Champa period (2nd – 15th century) and Đại Việt period (15th – 19th century). The artifacts displaying here were found at many places around Hoi An, they proved that in the past Hoi An was an important international commercial port town in the South region of Vietnam and Southeast Asia area. The museum was located at No.13 Nguyen Hue st, then moved to Hoi An Museum at No.10B Tran Hung Dao St in October, 2015.
Before 1985, we knew Hoi An as a special heritage site with many different cultural values. From the discoveries of Sa Huynh Culture in July 1989, we also knew of an underground Hoi An in which hidden ancient cultural heritage over 2000 years ago. Archaeological excavations in Hoi An from 1989-2001 have given us a clearer and fuller view of the pre-protohistoric culture in Hoi An. Under the support of TOYOTA FOUNDATION and the approval of local authorities, Museum of Sa Huynh Culture was established on June 8, 1994 at No.149 Tran Phu st. The museum maintains a rich and quite complete collection of 1134 artifacts related to ancient inhabitants of Sa Huynh culture, who had relations and exchanges with Southeast Asia, South India and Chinese. The museum reflects the concept of life and death, customs, aesthetic awareness, exchange relations … of Sa Huynh residents in Hoi An. In particular, the Museum also exhibits a number of artifacts demonstrating the existence of inhabitants who lived more than 3000 years ago at Bai Ong – Cham Island. Museum of Sa Huynh Culture contributes to the introduction, propagation and research about Hoi An Ancient Culture and History for people and scientists. At the end of 2016, the Museum was upgraded to a modern display system to meet the public’s demand for cultural enjoyment.
The study of Hoi An ancient town needed many helps from international organizations, experts and researchers from domestic and abroad. In order to disseminate and preserve the research and archaeological results with important findings for the public and the futur generation, on October 2, 1995, under the support of Japanese experts, the Museum of Trading Ceramics was established. The museum maintains 530 artifacts dating from the 9th -10th century to the19th century. The collection was found in many archaeological sites in Hoi An reflecting the maritime trade and ceramics road of Hoi An when it was a bustling commercial port in the last centuries. The museum is located at 80 Tran Phu in an typical ancient house built in the late nineteenth century.
On December 4, 1999, Hoi An Ancient Town was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The heritage value of Hoi An is not only the ancient town but also the intangible heritage values of the local residents living inside and outside the town. Thus, Hoi An is considered a “living museum”. Cultural activities, production and manipulation techniques, handicraft and traditional skills are being kept and used among the life of Hoi An people. It’s necessary to collect, display and introduce the intangible cultural values of Hoi An to people and visitors. The Folklore Museum is open to visitors from March 24, 2005 at 33 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, comprising 834 artifacts related to visual arts, art performance and traditional handicraft and folk lifestyle. This is also the place where performances of cocoon dragging, textile, embroidery, lantern making … The Folklore Museum has shown intangible cultural values, introduced a rich culture, creation and contributions of local residents in the process of building and developing Hoi An.
On the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam communist Party, the Memorial house of Mr. Cao Hong Lanh (The founder of the Vietnam Revolutionary Youth Association in Hoi An) was inaugurated on February 2, 2010. There are 416 artifacts introducing the operation of Mr.Cao Hong Lanh from 1923 to 1977. In addition, this is an ancient house with a traditional medicine store named Duc An at the early twentieth century and then became a bookstore.
Hoi An People’s Committee issued a decision to establish Hoi An Museum on July 9, 2015. It is located at No.10B Tran Hung Dao st . The museum is displaying 880 documents and artifact showing overview of Hoi An culture and history, including four exhibition areas: History and Culture, History of Revolutionary , Hoi An ascent from hardship and Gallery of Hoi An paintings.
After a long time of preparing and collecting artifacts, on March 15, 2019, Hoi An Traditional Medicine Museum was established at 46 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Along with other traditional occupations, traditional medicine in Hoi An has continuously developed through historical periods associated with the trade exchange process in Hoi An commercial port. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, due to many reasons, especially the strong development of Western medicine, the traditional medicine profession in many regions in general and in Hoi An in particular began to decline. The Museum of traditional medicine contributes to re-create an Oriental medicine stores with activities of pulse diagnosis, giving medicine, drying herbal medicine… Now it becomes a destination attracting tourists in Hoi An.
In order to establish and manage these museum system, staffs of Hoi An museum have experienced many difficulties. The important work requires high expertise and concentration, effective organization and management. And above all, they love working in the museum field with tangible and intangible cultural values. On the occasion of International Museum Day, we give an encouragement to those who work in museums in general, cheering them to contribute more for a sustainable museum career.