Painter Vu Duc Hieu: Proper investment needed to safeguard treasured traditional culture

Painter Vu Duc Hieu, director of the Muong Cultural Space Museum, has toured many countries in Asia and Europe in order to share information and learn about the cultural preservation of people there. The Thoi Nay (Today) publication of Nhan Dan (The People) Newspaper, held a talk with him to explore the outcomes of these field trips.

Painter Vu Duc Hieu, director of the Muong Cultural Space Museum (Photo:
Painter Vu Duc Hieu, director of the Muong Cultural Space Museum (Photo:

Question: Can you please brief us on the major trips you have made since 2017?

Painter Vu Duc Hieu: In 2016, a museum expert from Antwerp city, Belgium, paid a one-month visit to our Muong Cultural Space Museum. He then invited me to visit his museum in June 2017. During my one-week stay in the Belgian city, I learnt more about the ethnic affairs, arts, and history of the museum network there.

Following the trip, I took three months from June to August to tour around 50 museums in more than 10 European countries.

Domestically, I visited Tam Ky city in the central coastal province of Quang Nam many times last year, working with the local authorities to provide consultation and make paintings for the Tam Thanh fishing village, which has become popular among tourists thanks to its colourful mural paintings.

At the end of 2017, I went on excursions to the northern province of Son La to make further research on the pottery craft of the Thai ethnic people in Muong Chanh commune, before heading to Phu Tho province to provide suggestions on developing community-based tourism in Hung Lo commune.

My last visit of 2017 was to Quanzhou, China, to introduce the pottery of the Muong people at the Maritime Silk Road International Arts Festival in mid-December.

During the first three months of this year, I went to Chau Doc city, An Giang province, to explore the indigenous culture of the Khmer people. It was followed by two short working trips to Tay Giang district, Quang Nam province, as a consultant for the local authorities to develop community-based tourism.

In mid-April this year, I was invited to reproduce an authentic cultural space of the Muong people at an exhibition held in Ninh Binh province to celebrate the 1050th anniversary of the establishment of Dai Co Viet (Great Viet), the first feudal state of Vietnam.

Did you observe any differences between Vietnamese and foreign museums during these visits?

My talks and working sessions with the museum experts in Belgium and other European countries have widened my observation of the division in two forms of the museum sector, which are traditional museums and contemporary museums.

As traditional museums typically embrace the nation’s history and pride, they often possess treasured works in their collections, which attract a long line of local residents and international visitors, who come to admire the exhibits.

Meanwhile, contemporary museums have to ultilise support from professional curators and marketing campaigns to attract visitors. When they want to stage a display on a specific topic, such as anthropology, history, or the arts, they will call for curators to reassemble, catalogue, and present the most typical works from around the world which fit the topic the most.

Exhibitions at such museums also have the support of touch screen technology, allowing visitors to gain access to a vast source of knowledge, while developing a direct connection with the exhibits.

The entrance fee is affordable, ranging from EUR8 to EUR20 across Europe.

The situation is not the same in Vietnam as all of the objects are generally displayed quietly inside a glass box at a majority of museums. The application of advanced technologies is rarely seen, in just a few private museums.

What was the most valuable lesson you learnt from your trips?

I think that we should develop a long-term vision on the development of contemporary museums. Such museums should work to bring the vitality of traditional culture in a proper context and vividly introduce it to visitors with state-of-the-art tools.

We need consistent and approved policies on culture to make the task work effectively. We also need proper investment to maintain and promote the vitality of our traditional treasured culture.

Thank you so much for your sharing!