An international archaeological exhibition will be held in Germany in 2014, spurring a large archaeological project between Germany and Viet Nam.
Dr Stefan Leneen, one of the project managers spoke to Culture Vulture about the plan.
You are planning to organise a Vietnamese archaeological exhibition in Germany in 2014. Could you tell a bit more about the project's inception?
It started about five years ago in response to certain staff who would visit the country on holiday, and were impressed with Vietnamese cultural heritage. As a result of this interest an exchange has been set up between experts of both countries that involves exhibitions and co-operation to exhibit to the German people the richness of Vietnamese history.
A colloquium recently held at the Goethe Institute was the first step to putting Vietnamese archaeology into context. As the project manager, I'm responsible for the development of co-ordination of management. Being an archaeologist myself, I can shed light on the context of Vietnamese archaeology.
For more detailed advice, we have to depend on our other Vietnamese colleagues. At the time we are taking into account the opinions of all the parties involved to construct a well thought-out exhibition.
What difficulties face the German scientists in this attempt to hold the first Vietnamese archaeological exhibition in that country?
Each exhibition involves a large amount of work, both for us and for our foreign colleagues. However there is a difference in politics and culture when arranging something like this in Europe and in Viet Nam.
We have to make allowances for the differences in cultures, and understand how the structure in this country operates. I definitely believe it is possible, but there is still a lot of work ahead. With the support of our Vietnamese partners, we are confident that it will be a success. However there are other obstacles, including funding, which we hope to get from institutes such as the LWL-Museum for Archaeology, in Herne city, which also co-operates with the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums, in Mannheim city, as well as the Haus der Archaologie and Geschichte in Chemnitz city. This way the financial burden can be spread out.
Other possible sources of funding could come from various foundations, charitable organisations or large companies.
Do you have anything planned for the project after the colloquium in Ha Noi?
The next step will be to work with Vietnamese scientists to discuss ways to curate and present exhibitions.
I think we have a lot of work that could be done. The exhibitions we present could shine new light on the history of this nation, dating back to one to two thousand years.
What will be the focus of this exhibition?
We would like to show Viet Nam's culture to the world. So our intention here is to represent significant achievements within their historical and cultural context.
We will divide the displays into periods, beginning with the earliest traces of stone age civilisations. The time period between 500BC and 1500AD will take up more space. More recent developments will not be covered as comprehensively, but will be summarised.
The archaeological sites at Co Loa and Thang Long will take a special role, since they have been significant throughout many periods of history, playing a significant part in the political development of the nation.
Influences and relations with other regions will also be highlighted. We hope to succeed in presenting a somewhat comprehensive cultural picture of Viet Nam in a way that people can understand.
What have you learned about Vietnamese culture in preparation for the exhibition?
Personally, I have not had much contact with the culture, because I have never had the chance to visit Southeast Asia. This is also true for the majority of Germans. However archaeologists here are aware of the importance of studying in the region.
There are other German archaeologists who have much better knowledge of Vietnamese culture, and our Vietnamese partners have been a great help in making this exhibit possible. I cannot read Vietnamese, and there is a lack of translated text about these subjects. This is one of the biggest problems European scientists face when studying the subject of archaeology in Viet Nam. — VNS