Nam Ky museum – mark of Indochine architecture


As one of the first museums in Vietnam built by the French, Nam Ky (Southern Vietnam) museum (currently known as the Vietnam National Museum of History – HCMC) had been renamed many times, through many historical periods, but retains its originalarchitecture of a museum. This is also a special structure and a representative of Indochine architecture in Saigon – Gia Dinh.

Origin of the Museum of History

The Vietnam National Museum of History – HCMC (2 Nguyen Binh Khiem street, Dist. 1, HCMC) was built in1926 and completed in 1928 with its first name as Nam Ky.

The museum was made after a suggestion of the Socíete des Etudes Indochinoises (Association of Indochine Research) in Saigon. The plans for construction was formed in 1882, when this association needed a place to store, preserve and research objects.

Finally, the museum was officially built. On November 24th, 1927, Nam Ky’s governor, Blanchard de la Brosse enforced a decree to found the Nam Ky museum (Musée de la Cochinchine). The structure is located in the park of Saigon. To show the French’s role in Vietnam and Indochina, on August 6th, 1928, another decree was promulgated to rename the museum after the name of the governor, Blanchard de la Brosse. The museum was directly controlled by Nam Ky government with the scientific management of the Ancient Far East Institute (main office in Hanoi). On January 1st, 1929, the museum was inaugurated and opened for public. On its first days, it showcased about 3000 objects.

On September 2nd, 1945, Vietnam became independent. The Ministry of National Education under the Democratic Republic of Vietnam renamed the Blanchard de la Brosse as Gia Dinh museum. On June 14th, 1954, the museum was controlled by the Republic of Vietnam government. On May 16th, 1956, it was renamed as Vietnam National Museum of History under the management of the Ministry of National Education, Republic of Vietnam. Then, on August 26th, 1979, it was renamed as the museum of Vietnamese history, HCMC. However, Nam Ky museum is still called as a special mark of the Indochine architecture.


 Mark of Indochine architecture

Nam Ky museum was designed by the architect Auguste Delaval (French). The structure featured Indochine architectural style, which was popular and strongly developed from 1920 to 1945 in Vietnam, especially in Hanoi and Saigon (HCMC). Both domestic and French architects created and combined European architecture with local style, with traditional elements and local characteristics.

The structure features a symmetrical space with an octagonal lobby in the middle. It has the same characteristics as Western public building with its impressive appearance. Its reinforced concrete features, including small square girders with big spans creates large spaces. The big hall is a highlight of the structure with two impressively sloping roofs decorated with stylized images of dragons. The lobby in front with four roofs conjures up images of traditional houses. All the roof systems are covered with double tiles and separated from the walls by consoles.

Houses by the hall were built in U-shape and stuck to the hall to create two small inside yards on both sides. At the “bottom” of the U, another octagonal space is seen. In front of two house range, a concrete pergola system is a specific character of Western architecture. This is an important decorative part of the structure as well as the fixing of the routes.

Other architectural decors in the front and interiors are of Oriental and Vietnamese style, patterns and drawings. All are set harmoniously in the general view of the structure. In 1970, the museum expanded to the back house. This additional structure also features a U-shape with two ranges linking to the old structures. The back building was constructed with three floors and created a large yard in the middle. It was designed by architect Nguyen Ba Lang. The new structure was constructed basing on the old architecture with less details.


Vietnamese history in the South

Vietnam National Museum of History, HCMC is the largest museum in Southern Vietnam with the historical depth of the country. Besides that, the museum also displays many precious objects preserved from Nam Ky museum of the Socíete des Etudes Indochinoises. Currently, it contains 18 displaying spaces, in which 10 spaces show subjects of time and 6 spaces for indoor subjects, 1 for the outdoor ones and 1 for short-term ones.

The museum owns more than 30,000 objects and 25,000 valuable newspapers, books and documents of history, ethnology, archaeology, preservation and museum. This museum not only holds historical archives of the country in Southern Vietnam, but it is also a leading research center of history. The structure itself is an excellent architectural work with its own historical marks.