“ The new face of the Independence Palace, a national historic and cultural site” – Article of Dr. Nguyen Van Huy, assistant Proffessor, member of the Council of National Heritage.
Providing information so that visitors can read and discover the palace’s history on their own
Ho Chi Minh City recently held a ceremony introducing the newly redesigned tour for the Independence Palace, Special National Site. The new tour has completely changed the visitor’s experience of this important historic site. We are honored to introduce the following article by Dr. Nguyen Van Huy, member of the National Council of Heritage and a key consultant to the new tour:
Each year, the Independence Palace welcomes approximately one million foreign and domestic visitors. This represents a very large number for Vietnam’s museums and historic sites. For several decades, generally speaking, the only sources of on-site information were palace tour guides and tourist companies.
Previously, those visitors who wanted to do a self-guided tour could not. Instead, large groups were gathered in numbers of 50 to 100 for tours, making the experience both unwieldy and uncomfortable. Waiting times for tours were long. And due to the large group sizes, tour guides had to use loud speakers, thus creating distractions for all visitors and detracting from the palace’s solemnity.
Realizing these shortcomings and on the advice of the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam, the palace set out to improve the quality of the tour. The initial change was to display information on panels, so that visitors can read and discover for themselves.
Preparation for the new tour-approach took almost two years and included professional advice from Vietnamese and French experts. Among them were ethnologist Christine Hemmet and graphic designer Patrick Hoarau. The group of experts determined the locations needing information displays, such as the Stateroom, Diplomatic Credentials’ Chamber, the Office of the President as well as the flagpole where the Liberation flag was raised on April 30, 1975. Each display panel has three languages – Vietnamese, English and French – and is concise. Every photograph displayed has been chosen carefully to faithfully and dynamically reflect palace history.
The new tour consists of 35 informational panels. The panels are professionally designed with easy-to-see font. In addition, there is plenty of signage to help visitors move easily from room to room. Both the information panels and signs contribute to creating a vastly improved exhibition.
The newly redesigned Palace tour has gained the attention of visitors. By recognizing the Palace as both museum and historic site, this allows for further promotion of the history and grounds and makes it far easier for visitors to explore. We also hope this new approach will provide an ideal model for museums and historic sites in Vietnam.