The Museum of Ethnology in Vietnam is the latest, largest and undoubtedly the most interesting in the long line that makes up the history of museums in the country. The museum is a great display of Vietnam as a multi-ethnic country that believes that more attention should be given to promote socio-cultural adversity.
Most travelers are not aware that Vietnam is a country with such rich ethnic diversity, which is why an entire museum was established that is devoted to such a theme. The museum opened in year 1997 and presents thorough instructions and descriptions of almost all of the cultures in Vietnam, from north to the south alike. The museum uses a more contemporary curatorial approach than most museums found in Hanoi in order to convey more meaningful and understandable messages to visitors. The exhibition features 9 sections that proudly feature the Historical and Cultural Periods, 3 major sub-regions, and the 54 ethnic groups that are classified into 5 language families.
The museum features both an indoor and outdoor section of Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups. Get to explore their basic way of life evident in their distinct age-old artifacts, tools, costumes, rituals and traditions. While the in-house exhibition is particularly informative, its outdoor display makes the museum stand out from the rest as a huge outdoor field is devoted to actual size models of traditional houses. A handful of houses remodeled after traditional architecture of ethnic minorities can be found, especially those from the Northern and Central Highlands of Vietnam. Visitors are exceptionally blown away by such elaborate detail in architecture that also include ancient Vietnamese furniture and carefully sourced indigenous trees. At the same time, visitors will be able to engage in traditional games and activities of the ethnic minorities such as the water puppet show, calligraphy and the stone game or more popularly known as “O An Quan”.
Today, the traditional minority houses remain a popular backdrop for wedding photography as it adds a rather unique texture to pictures. There are a total of 15,000 artifacts, 40,000 photographs, films, slides and tapes found in the museum. All information about such exhibit displays is thoroughly explained by the museum’s extremely accommodating staff, many of whom speak fluent English.
For those who appreciate some green space, the museum is located in Nguyen Van Huyen in the capital city of Hanoi. It is open daily except Mondays from 8:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the afternoon. For a reasonable entrance fee, the museum is a great alternative for those Hanoi tourists who cannot find the time to visit the remote areas of Vietnam where majority of the country’s ethnic minorities go about their way of life.
Despite being quite a leap from the closely knit tourist attractions in Hanoi, the Museum of Ethnology is surely worth a visit. For those who are keen in learning about the multicultural aspect of Vietnam, the museum will surely provide evidence on how the ancient people of Vietnam once lived and, at the same time, will showcase how important culture and religion is to a community.