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22/10/2022 - 06:59

Connecting and searching for cultural heritage documents in France

“We will propose to the provincial authorities to consider and coordinate with the French Embassy to Vietnam to agree on a draft of cooperation agreement with the French School of the Far East (EFEO) to exchange and cooperate in data searching and managing, establishing an electronic database and data on heritage digitization, that add more sources of original documents to Hue heritage,” shared Mr. Hoang Viet Trung, Director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center (HMCC) after returning from his business trip to France.

Mr. Hoang Viet Trung, HMCC’s Director (middle) and the delegation posing for a commemorative photo at the EFEO

As Mr. Trung shared with Thua Thien Hue Newspaper, “this is a very meaningful business trip, because it is the official intensive mission to work with our partners, who are managing and archiving original documents on heritages of Hue Imperial palace and the Nguyen Dynasty, since the Hue Monuments Complex was recognized by UNESCO as the world cultural heritage in 1993”.

Could you tell me more about this special visit?

We achieved two goals, which is first to visit, work and exchange with the Embassy of Vietnam to France and the Permanent Delegation of Vietnam to UNESCO; and, it is impossible not to mention that we also worked with archives and museums in France, descendants of Emperor Ham Nghi, private collectors, etc., to access documents as well as collect and receive many flash drives of original data.

This has promoted the good traditional friendship and cooperation between Thua Thien Hue and French partners in the fields of heritage, culture, conservation, and orientation for future cooperation.

More importantly, we learned, got access to electronic data, and directly visited the art exhibition of Emperor Ham Nghi in Nice to prepare expected contents for our activities in Hue city in introducing the life and art heritage of the renowned patriotic emperor in the coming time.

Was the role of the Vietnamese agencies in France also very important in supporting the delegation so far, as well as during the last business trip?

Yes. Ambassador Dinh Toan Thang of the Vietnamese Embassy to France said that at present, many historical artifacts and antiques, especially those related to the Nguyen Dynasty, are kept in a number of museums in France such as the Army Museum, the Cernuschi Museum, Guimet Museum, the Jacques Chirac Museum of Branly Quay, the EFEO...

The ambassador also affirmed his willingness to support Thua Thien Hue province in connecting museums, researchers, collectors and conservation experts to look for historical sources of interest to Thua Thien Hue, as well as promoting cooperation in different sectors between the province and French counterparts.

What about documents, artifacts as well as works about Emperor Ham Nghi in France?

I was very happy that during this business trip, the delegation met and worked with Ms. Amandine Dabat - a historical researcher and the 5th descendant of Emperor Ham Nghi, who published books about Emperor Ham Nghi.

Ms. Amandine Dabat signed a written consent for the HMCC to use copyrighted electronic copies, including 31 artworks, family photos of the emperor as well as to transfer the documents related to Emperor Ham Nghi.

These documents (flash drives, books, data...) are very important in terms of heritage and culture, contributing to support the future activities of the HMCC.

The delegation visits and works at the EFEO

We also worked with French-Vietnamese doctor and collector Gerald Chapuis, who successfully won an auction for the artwork of “Déclin du Jour” (or the Decline of the Day) by Emperor Ham Nghi. Mr. Gerald Chapuis also handed over documents related to Emperor Ham Nghi's family, signed a copyright contract to publish in Vietnam and introduce books about Emperor Ham Nghi in the near future.

What about historical artifacts and antiques related to the Nguyen Dynasty?

During our stay in France, we also worked with the EFEO and discussed many topics related to researching, sharing, and using archival resources, and the experiences relating to the preservation of archival records.

In particular, we were allowed to access and back up original documents, catalogs, previous records of antiquities and museum regulations to prepare documents for the 100th Anniversary of Hue Royal Antiquities Museum, and original documents on Hue heritages. The total volume of digitized backup documents was up to 1,000 pages. Many other related artifacts during the visit were also backed up by the delegation to serve the later research process.

What cooperation opportunities does this trip open up between the HMCC and French museums, Sir?

During our business trip to France, we signed and developed a plan not only for present but also for the future and for a long term cooperation. We are considering to advise the leaders of the Provincial People's Committee, EFEO and the French Embassy to Vietnam to sign a cooperation agreement on using data at EFEO for heritage conservation in Thua Thien Hue for the coming time.

In addition, the National archives of French overseas territories agreed for the HMCC’s staff with expertise and foreign languages to visit this agency to look up, collect and digitize documents about Hue relics, with a focus on relics that need restoring and repairing…

Thank you for the talk!

Story: Nhat Minh

Photos: Hue Monuments Conservation Center