The Vietnamese Women’s Museum is one of the best museums in Hanoi and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the culture of Vietnam. It gives insight into Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups, addressed through the lens of women’s issues.
The museum, which features more than 1,000 objects and photographs, is well laid out and bright, with quality exhibits, and the content is extensive and well presented, with information in Vietnamese, English and French.
Specifically, the museum is dedicated to the research, collection and exhibition of the life stories and experiences of Vietnamese women. As one of the first exhibits notes, "Women have always played an important role in the defence of the Vietnamese nation. In AD40, the Trung Sisters led the battle for independence against the Han Chinese..." And so it goes on.
Exhibits are spread over five floors, accessible by elevator if required. On the ground floor you’ll find bag storage and a gift shop, mostly selling the type of souvenirs you’ll also find in Old Quarter. Audio tours are available, lasting for a couple of hours. We didn't do one, but if you have the time, we suspect it would be a very worthwhile experience.
When we last dropped by, a temporary photographic exhibition was on display in the forecourt of the museum, with beautiful portraits of Vietnamese women taken by French photographer Rehahn. Temporary exhibitions are always showing, so fingers crossed something else lovely will be showing on your stop here, too.
The museum comprises three permanent thematic galleries: Women in Family, Women in History and Women's Fashion. The family exhibition on the first floor looks at the roles and responsibilities of women in the typical Vietnamese family, and looks at traditional marriage and childbirth customs across ethnic groups. Another exhibit looks at meal preparations and agricultural practice, as well as small business and handicrafts such as sewing, weaving and pottery.
Women in History looks at Vietnamese female soldiers and their sacrifices in the wars against the French and Americans. It looks at the roles women played in combat, domestic life and revolutionary activities. A few short audiovisual clips highlight the achievements of modern Vietnamese women in various roles across society.
We particularly liked the portrait display inside the museum by artist Dang Ai Vet, who travelled more than 35,000 kilometres around Vietnam to find and photograph the women whose portraits are here, from 2010 to 2012. These women were among some 50,000 who were awarded the title "Heroic Mothers of Vietnam", for having suffered the loss of a child during the American War.
Women's Fashion might sound trivial, but it's anything but, with clothing being an integral part of traditional society and across ethnic groups. The displays here showcase diverse fashions, looking at the various techniques used by various ethnic groups. It looks at beauty, with explanations about lacquered teeth, silver jewellery, ao dais and more. (On the lacquered teeth: Did you know that until the mid-1900s, Thai, Khang and Lu men and women lacquered their teeth black with the resin from a tree, from the age of around 12 for girls.)
One of the most appealing things about this museum is its relative impartiality; it doesn’t have the obvious agenda you'll find in other museums, though it does remain very patriotic. Information is presented factually but with heart, and props—such as videos, photography and exhibits—are used when appropriate and sufficiently to add interest and variety.
Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet St, Hanoi
T: (04) 3825 9936; F: (04) 3825 9129;
Coordinates (for GPS): 105º51'6.84" E, 21º1'23.16" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 30,000 dong
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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