Story: Dr.Emma Duester
Photos: Phan Dan, SEN HERITAGE
Key developments in digitization and digital display during the past two years were initiated by independent, non-governmental art organizations, whose digitization projects are sponsored by UNESCO, the Goethe Institute, the British Council, and the Danish Embassy. Manzi Art Space is one example of an independent art space that is innovative in displaying its digitized art collections, as they are currently experimenting with 3D scanning, virtual reality, and augmented reality in a three-year project called ‘Into Thin Air.’
Harnessing opportunities for digitization
Le Nhung from the Vietnamese Women’s Museum felt that digitization is a “positive development” for the preservation, safety, and sustainability of culture and for the greater availability of and easy access to resources.
Nguyen Thi Bich Van, Director of the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, reported that “positive reasons for a digital archive and online library include the safety of items and resources for educators and curators.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, and especially the lockdown in Hanoi (March-April 2020), encouraged many cultural professionals to focus anew on their digitization projects and digital work practices. “The Vietnamese Women’s Museum had to close down and stop welcoming visitors temporarily. However, closing down does not mean a shutdown,” explained Le Nhung. She went on to say that staff “found ways to bring the museum to the public at home” by developing content on online platforms. “The organization of online exhibitions is also the first step to use digital technology to introduce the display content more creatively, thereby, opening up more opportunities for the application of digital technology in many other activities in the future,” added Le Nhung.
Suzanne Lecht from Art Vietnam Gallery also described how lockdown afforded them time for online projects, saying: We decided to focus on all those projects that always seem to get set aside when we are receiving the public regularly.”
Hang Duong from Hanoi Studio Gallery also digitized more artworks and other content (text, video, event posters). “We developed and focused more on digital content, more updated information and images of artworks,” he said.
Changing audiences’ perception of Vietnamese Art
Stella from Friends of Vietnam Heritage wants to digitize art and culture in order to show the contemporary life and culture in Hanoi to both local and international audiences. “We want to provide and create a digital record or diary of contemporary Hanoi,” she revealed.
This is possible because, as Do Son from PI Auction House said: “On digital platforms, we are showing not just digital art but digital culture.” People can get a sense of Vietnam’s contemporary culture through art shared online.
By digitizing and publishing art online, cultural professionals are helping to change and develop Vietnam’s position internationally and to re-orientate the online representations of Vietnamese art and culture. “With the content to display online, we want to show the rich variety of styles and artists that show the enormous diversity of the arts in Vietnam,” explained Suzanne Lecht.
Ha Dao, co-founder of Matca Space of Photography, said: “For a couple of years I have been receiving emails and interviews – our website is the only place to find photography in Vietnam. So we have it as open so everyone can access it.” With this initiative, he wants to be at the forefront of the transition toward making more cultural content publicly accessible. Ha Dao went on to say that he hoped to show that “there is more to Vietnam and Vietnamese photography than ao dai and Ha Long Bay. We don’t have any specific agenda other than to showcase the diversity [in Vietnamese photography] that has always existed”.
Digital developments in Vietnam
The Vietnamese government has now positioned the cultural industries as a major sector for economic development and international cooperation, in order to transform the nation’s image from ‘made in Vietnam’ to ‘designed, innovated, and created in Vietnam’ (UNESCO, 2019).
The digitization of art and culture in Vietnam will help to ensure the sustainable preservation of cultural heritage. More importantly, with more digital resources, contemporary Vietnamese art and culture can be promoted locally and internationally, helping to develop international connections and collaboration.