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Visitors spurn staid thematic museums

Update: August, 24/2017 - 09:00
The Hà Nội Police Museum is a thematic museum that attracts many visitors .VNS Photo Đoàn Tang
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI –  The Aviation Museum boasts a collection of more than 500 photographs, documents, and equipment that tell the story of the aviation industry’s 60 years in Việt Nam. But it lacks the most important component of a strong museum: visitors. Unlike the crowded and bustling Nguyễn Sơn Street in Long Bien District just outside its doors, the Aviation Museum is almost always quiet.

Most of the museum’s visitors are special delegations of people who work in aviation. Its woes reflect a trend among the city’s thematic museums, the Hà Nội Mới (New Hanoi) newspaper reported recently.  There are about 20 thematic museum in Hà Nội including the Air Force Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum and the Military Logistics Museum. Lack of investment in exhibits, aging facilities and a dearth of creativity keep visitors away from niche museums.

As a result, many museums rent space to wedding parties and restaurants to increase their income. But this scramble for cash compromises the image and the professionalism of the museums themselves.

The Post Office Museum on Huỳnh Thúc Kháng faces the same struggle as the Aviation Museum, even though both of the locations are on main streets.

Associate Professor Nguyễn Văn Huy, director of the Centre for Heritage of Scientists and Scholars, said that many museum displays are simply too dull to attract visitors in an age of on-demand entertainment.

He also blamed it on the heavy dependence on state subsidies, which reduce the incentive to innovate in order to attract more visitors and bolster revenue.

“Thematic museums should not be a space for just showing achievements or praising individuals, but rather a place for telling the story of a sector and the unsung people who have many contributions to these particular areas of society,” he said.

He said staid museums unable to attract visitors should be creative and learn from other museums.

The Customs Museum in Dương Đình Nghệ Street is an example of an innovative museum.  

Despite the fact that it was opened just two years ago,  the museum has impressed viewers with surprising and emotional displays.

Within a limited space of about 200 sq.m, visitors can see more than 4 thousand objects, many of them valuable and rare.

One display shows a Quảng Ninh Province customs officer’s coat —featuring a hole caused by knife during a confrontation with smugglers. 

Visitors can read over 100 interviews with customs officers. The interviews tell the tearful stories and happy times of the people who work to protect the national economy and secure the country’s borders.

Phạm Đàm Ca, a member of research team of the Customs Museum, said that the museum attracts visitors because it displays objects to tell a story. It has not only shown the sector’s history and the development, but also informed the public about custom officers’ fierce battle against contraband in peacetime.

 The fact that more than 10 thousand visitors come to the museum in a year confirms its success.

The Hà Nội Police Museum can also offer lessons for empty museums. Open since 2015, the museum welcomes over 20 thousand visitors a year.

Bùi Hoàng Giang, manager of the Hà Nội Police Museum, said one of the secrets to luring visitors is to make sure they are well looked after.

All the visitors are warmly welcomed and assisted by friendly and knowledgeable guides.

"Within the exhibition space of over 500 sq.m, we try to make the museum as informative as possible," she said.

It was usually crowded at the weekend as many parents brought their children to the museum so that they can have more knowledge about history, Giang said, adding that the museum welcomes about 100 visitors a day on average.

Trần Thị Hoa, a Hanoian, said she was impressed with the Hà Nội Police Museum.

"When I came here, I was impressed by the pictures, and the posters about the police force. In particular, the museum introduced new materials such as costumes, police vehicles or exhibits of criminal cases," she said.

"Since then, I have learned about various kinds of crimes and how Vietnamese police can break up cases."

Nguyễn Thị Hương Giang, also a Hanoian, shared that opinion.

"The displays are modern and well laid-out," she said.

Having visited many museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the National History Museum, and the Women’s Museum, Giang said, she found that the Hanoi Police Museum offered the interesting history of Hanoi’s police force.

She particularly liked the displays of seized contraband which was interesting like knives and a falchion sword, she said.

Giang said she thought the museum could be even more attractive to visitors if it had more items and a cinema room.

The best thematic museums, experts in the field say, show why such museums are so important: though their niches are small, they reflect essential parts of the nation’s history.

Mã Thanh Cao, an expert, said that as they renovate displays to appeal to the public, museums should promote themselves by establishing a connection with the travel agencies. This, in turn, could help attract more visitors to the museums, and keep travelers satisfied and entertained.-- VNS






The modern displays and friendly, knowledgable staff have made the Hà Nội Police Museum attractive to visitors. VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng

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