Donations evoke era of liberation

Update: August, 29/2014 - 09:55
Collector's dream: One of match box labels collected by Nguyen Van Bang that have been donated to the Ha Noi Museum. — VNS Photos Minh Thu

by Minh Thu

HA NOI (VNS) — It is not a well known fact that the first children's beauty contest was held in Ha Noi in 1954, when the capital was liberated.

Sixty years later, a photo of Nguyen Thi Bich Lien, 67, represents the only photo of the event she entered at the age of seven. Now, it is on display at the Ha Noi Museum.

Lien is one of many donors that responded to a call put out by the museum and Ha Noi's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism to donate objects for exhibitions marking the 60th anniversary of the capital's liberation on October 10.

"When the capital was liberated, people tried to rebuild our culture, our education system and our economy," said Lien.

"Various dynamic activities were organised to inspire the people and celebrate the newly liberated life including the first beauty contest for children."

"Candidates were encouraged to dress up and express their talent by impersonating the nation's heroes and representatives of different occupations in society, such as soldiers and nurses," she added.

Living on Hang Quat, a street filled with costumes and props makers, Lien prepared herself to take on the role of Trung Trac. Her friend next door acted as Trung Nhi. The Trung sisters were Vietnamese military leaders who rebelled against Chinese rule in the first century.

The performance of the two girls won first place at the contest at Au Tri Vien, now known as Ha Noi Children's Palace.

Piece of history: A portrait of Nguyen Thi Bich Lien taken after winning the first children's beauty contest in Ha Noi in 1954.

Lien said she had her picture taken many times during the contest, capturing her performances and those of other candidates. With the passage of time and the war, she lost most of these images. In spite of this, she decided to donate her only photo to the museum because she wanted to share it with younger generations.

"I believe that without my photo, few people would even know that such a contest had taken place," Lien said.

"The organising of the contest proved that although the country still faced many obstacles at that time, people still cared about having activities for children and cultural events that celebrated talent and the future."

Lien said her partner later moved to HCM City and had passed away. But she hoped that her donation would help her track down other contestants to reflect on their shared experiences.

Lien's husband, Nguyen Van Bang also answered the call for donations, lending part of his collection of 5,000 stamps and match box labels. The stamps illustrate the day a US Air Force B52 bomber was shot down in 1972 in Ha Noi.

Bang collected match box labels produced as early as the 1960s by the Thong Nhat Match Company. Founded in 1956, it was the first factory built in the north of Viet Nam.

"At that time, each label was a kind of miniature poster in which many messages were sent to encourage people to be productive, celebrate the new year and protect the rhinoceros," said Bang.

"It was more than just a label. It conveyed strong messages through fine art."

Other collectors have joined the call, donating countless valuable artifacts to the museum, such as an iron bought from the former Soviet Union, padded waistcoats from the Ha Noi militia force and coupons or food stamps issued by the government.

In total, the museum has received 145 objects donated by 40 individuals and agencies.

Nguyen Tien Da, vice director of the museum, said calls for donation will run until the end of this year.

The museum currently boasts 70,000 objects depicting the capital's establishment and development during different periods. — VNS