Museum project delayed, house becomes restaurant
A native of Soc Trang, Vuong is one of the country’s leading scholars on southern Vietnamese culture. From 1947 until his death, he had written many books including “Saigon in the Years Far Past,” “Book Collecting Passion,” “Memoir on a 50-Year Love of Songs” and “Old and New Smartness.”
He devoted half of his life to collecting antiques and displayed them in his 100-year-old plus house at 9/1 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street in Binh Thanh District.
The place during his time was a venue for local intellectuals and artists to gather and talk about literature and cultural issues.
Prestigious magazines such as the Time and Newsweek have sent their staff to visit and write about the house that they said were full of cultural value.
In 1996, before he died, the scholar donated the house and all antiques to the State, with the stipulation that it be established as a museum, hoping to share his cultural assets with the community.
He wanted the house to become the place for later generations to get to know rare books, antique furniture items as well as the Vietnamese ancient lifestyle.
After his death, the city’s Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism removed the antiques from his house to the Museum of History in the city’s General Science Library in preparation for converting the house into a museum.
In 2003, the house was recognized as a city’s relic. HCMC People’s Committee later issued administrative decisions to restore the house and turn it into an antiques exhibition center.
However, nine years later, the ancient house of the renowned scholar has not been restored despite its deterioration.
In addition, running a business, specifically a snail restaurant in this case, at a city’s relic has violated the decision of the HCMC People’s committee.
Article 2 of the decision prohibits all construction and exploration activities in the areas that are protected. Any purpose for which land at protected historical and cultural areas is used must be approved by the chairman of the city’s People’s committee.
Petition from his grandchildren
According to Pham Thanh Nam, head of the cultural heritage of HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the reason for the delayed conversion of the house into a museum is the failure of the authorities to meet the demands of the scholar’s descendants with regard to the subsidies for their removal from the house.
“For many reasons, the disagreement between Vuong’s descendants and local authorities on the right of the house reversion has turned complicated,” he said.
He also added that local authorities have implemented many methods to protect the house.
“The city’s Department of Sport, Tourism and Culture is responsible for managing the relic house. However, we cannot handle problems related to civil disputes, demographic and social order,” he informed.
“We really hope to receive cooperation from his descendants so that we can soon make it into a museum.”