Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi - review by Rusty Compass
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Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi

| 16 Nov 2011
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Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi
1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi - in the French Quarter
8-11:30am and 1:30-4:30pm
20,000VND - more for cameras

Our rating
16 Nov 2011

Vietnam’s best account of its thousands of years of history is set in one of Hanoi’s finest buildings. A refreshing break from war and propaganda it focuses on Vietnam’s pre 20th century story. The limited English language descriptions and a lack of contextual information are a big letdown.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Housed in one of Vietnam's most spectacular pieces of French era architecture, the National Museum of Vietnamese History is home to the finest collection of artefacts from Vietnam's ancient and more recent history. If Hanoi's other museums have overwhelmed you with propaganda and war, this museum will come as a welcome relief both with its delightful setting and its superb collection. Concentrating on Vietnam's pre - twentieth century evolution, the presentation is refreshingly contemporary although exhibits lack context and detailed information in English.

Photo: Mark BowyerDong Son Drum, National Museum of Vietnamese History
Museum highlights include a collection of Dong Son drums, artefacts from central Vietnam's Cham kingdom as well as costumes and other pieces from Vietnam's last royal dynasty, the Nguyen Dynasty.

The Bronze Age Dong Son civilisation flourished around Thanh Hoa province not far from Hanoi for 1000 years from around 1200BC and their stunning drums depict life and nature of the time using advanced casting techniques. The Dong Son drum is frequently used as a contemporary symbol of Vietnamese culture and civilisation.

Photo: Mark BowyerNational Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi
The Cham kingdom existed across central and southern Vietnam until its last territories were annexed by the Vietnamese at the beginning of the 19th century. The ethnically Malay Polynesian Chams created a vast kingdom rich in culture. The Museum of Vietnamese History contains a good collection of Cham artefacts. Remarkably, a good many of these are outside in the elements in what appears to be a car park for the city's well connected.

The museum also houses pieces from Vietnam's royal dynasties - the most extensive being from the final Nguyen Dynasty which ended in 1945.

The Museum's collection is impressive but a good guide is essential if you want to make full sense of it since the English language descriptions are disappointingly limited.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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