MA. Trieu Van Hien
President Ton Duc Thang was born on 20 August 1888 in a peasant family at Ong Ho Islet, My Hoa Hung Commune, Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province. He passed away on 30 March 1980 in the position of the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, lasting 92 years. In 1908, being a 18-year-old youngsters, Ton Duc Thang arrive in Saigon to begin his working time. In the eventful of an industrial city, the place of revolutionary source, with his hot patriotism and the youth’s courage from the Southwest, he immediately joined the patriotic movements of labourers and become the leader of the strike of Ba Nghe students. He was also the leader of Ba Son workers strike. In 1916, at the age of 28, Ton Duc Thang became a mechanic soldier working on the France battleship of the French Naval Forces. On 20 April 1919, Ton Duc Thang and the soldiers on the battleship on the Black Sea opposed the war, hoisting the red flag to support the Soviet Russia. Due to this action, Ton Duc Thang was expelled from France. Returning to Saigon, Ton Duc Thang actively joined the society operations and became the leader of Vietnam’s first Secret Union, significantly contributing to the existence of Vietnam Communist Party. With 92 years of life, nearly 70 years of revolutionary operation and nearly 17 years confined in jails of the French Colonialists, Comrade Ton Duc Thang held many important positions of the Party, National Assembly and the State. During the time of joining revolutionary operation, President Ton Duc Thang is not only the excellent leader of the Party and the State, the typical revolutionist, the intimate comrade-in-arms of President Ho Chi Minh, the typical communist, the international soldier with great credit, he is also the symbol of the strength of national great solidarity. We can say that President Ton Duc Thang had devoted all his noble life to the career of national liberation struggle, national unification and contributed a significant portion to the struggle for peace worldwide.
After President Ton Duc Thang passed away, the Party and the State decided to build Ton Duc Thang Museum. The date of 20 August 1988, on the occasion of His 100th birth-anniversary, Ton Duc Thang Museum was officially inaugurated in Ho Chi Minh City, the place where 81 years earlier, Uncle Ton started his glorious revolutionary road.
Ton Duc Thang Museum is located in a modest and simple campus at crowded and busy District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. Beside the solemn commemorative room, the office and relax room of President Ton Duc Thang was restored as His prototype in Ha Noi. In the regular exhibition of Ton Duc Thang Museum, there is a room telling the life and career of President Ton Duc Thang, along with 09 special topic rooms: Poulo Condor Pearl; President Ton Duc Thang’s daily life; Uncle Ton in world people’s heart; Uncle Ton at Viet Bac Military Base; Uncle Ton and the South; Uncle Ton through Fine Arts Works… By a regular exhibition system of 1,800 m2, the introduction of over 1000 items, original documents and historical pictures and materials, the Museum has reproduced fairly and relatively adequately about the life and revolutionary career of President Ton Duc Thang.
After 20 years of construction and development, Ton Duc Thang Museum has gained significant achievements. Along with the regular and continuous exhibition system over two past decades, it, almost every year, often organizes short-term special display. To the year of 2007, Ton Duc Thang Museum has organized 15 special displays. Many of them have large scale and diversities of contents which were combined with Vietnam Revolution Museum, An Giang Museum, with the City Labour Union, with the Fine Arts Association and the Municipal Children House, such as: 50 years of National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Unity National Front in the process of Vietnamese Revolution; The Workers in Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City, the portraits of labour heroes; An Giang – Uncle Ton’s on the road of renovation; Russia in 20th century – historical pages… Furthermore, after 20 years of researching, collecting, and exploiting in most domestic regions where Uncle Ton has worked, even in foreign countries, the storehouse of Ton Duc Thang Museum now stores nearly 12,000 objects, pictures, materials, in which there are over 800 original objects in bulks1. Although this quantity can not be considered abundant, they are precious tangible cultural heritage, the special original historical sources to serve the mission of research, publication, exhibition, introduction about the revolutionary life and career of President Ton Duc Thang. Additionally, with many ways of useful propaganda, education to diversifying the socialization in the profession, Ton Duc Thang Museum has attracted approximately 100,000 turns of visitors every year, some years reaching hundreds of thousand. During some recent years, Ton Duc Thang Museum has welcomed nearly 100,000 visitors, particularly in 2007, 153,172 turns of people to visit the Museum2.
1 According to the statistics of the Profession Unit, Ton Duc Thang Museum
The existence of Ton Duc Thang Museum as well as the growth and development of this museum during 20 recent years is the gratitude from today generations toward Uncle Ton, the son born in the populous South who devoted all his life for the national liberation career, for the people’s prosperity, a political famous man, the key leader of the Party, the National Assembly and the State, Nevertheless, in modern trend of development, with the scale of Ton Duc Thang Museum built in Ho Chi Minh City, the most active city of the country, we still have some concerns. On this seminar, we may discuss some ideas as follows:
1. The position of Ton Duc Thang Museum
In Document No. 128-CV/TƯ dated 16 Sept 1998 of the Standing Committee of the Ministry of Politics and the VIII Central Executive Party Committee, it is clearly stated: Beside two Museums (Ho Chi Minh Museum and Ton Duc Thang Museum) which have been in operation, the State has no policy to build any museums for any other revolutionists. The biography, career and relics relating to the revolutionary operations of the celebrity will be exhibited and introduced in Vietnam Revolution Museum3. Therefore, Ton Duc Thang Museum and Ho Chi Minh Museum are the two museums on the two key leaders of Vietnam and are also the only two museums for celebrity with the true meaning of museums to exhibit and introduce the biography and career of celebrities. For such reason, in our opinion, Ton Duc Thang Museum should be invested and classified at a higher rank than present. In reality, the operation, scale, contents and profession of Ton Duc Thang Museum are somewhat different to other museums in Ho Chi Minh City.
2. The exhibition system
Generally, a museum on biography and career of a celebrity like Ton Duc Thang Museum, with its current exhibition, can be seemed proper. Over 20 years of construction and development from the zero point (no objects, no system of qualified storehouses, no exhibition devices, no house with correct function of a museum… but under the close direction of the Party Leaders, Ho Chi Minh City Authority, under the strict management of the Service of Culture and Information (Department of Culture, Sports and tourism now) of the City, under the direction of the Bureau of Cultural Heritage and with the responsible and effective of the Central Museums, and the agencies and units nationwide, Ton Duc Thang Museum has gradually developed and made progress. Nevertheless, in the new current trend of integration and development, Ton Duc Thang Museum should improve its regular system of exhibition. At first, the area of the exhibition room should be widened. From such new room, the Museum shall be able to continue to hold new special exhibition rooms, having the premises to organize educational activities of a modern museum as Discovery Room, Clubs for pupils and students to learn about Uncle Ton, or the open storehouse…
Additionally, in the exhibition contents of Ton Duc Thang Museum, it should be studied and extended new special topics on the biography and career of President Ton Duc Thang, such as: Uncle Ton’s time in foreign countries; President Ton Duc Thang with the patriotic competitive movement; Uncle Ho and Uncle Ton… At the same time, some existing special topics of the Museum, due to narrow space, the exhibition contents are still limited. With more convenient conditions, we can add new topics. For example, we can introduce more about ATK Viet bac Military Base in the anti-France resistance war; about the voyage of the French battleships when they marched to the Black Sea of the Soviet Russia in 1919; the political and economic situations at An Giang and Saigon in the early 20th century…
Like the exhibition contents, the aesthetics and interior decoration of Ton Duc Thang Museum should be improved to be more modern and attractive, but concurrently ensuring the simplicity as Uncle Ton’s virtue. In exhibition rooms, the audio and video devices should be optimized, sand tables and diograma should be added…
3. The task of improvement and maintenance of the storehouse
The storehouse for objects is always the spine for all museums’ operation. Although generations of officers have tried their best, until now, the number of objects in the storehouse is now about 12,000 items, pictures, materials, in which the items with block occupy less than 10%. Obviously, with such a number of items, materials, it will be hard to develop new topics or to make new special exhibitions, or short-term displays. Therefore, in the short run, Ton Duc Thang shall make a study plan for collection and improvement of the storehouse. The exhibition contents should be extended the collection topics, collection subjects. For example, the Museum should collect images or materials about Ba Nghe School, the school Uncle Ton used to learn at; pictures of President Ton Duc Thang’s servants or colleagues; objects, pictures, materials of Ba Son Military Port in the past and the present; about the Poulo Condor Prison and the Liberation Ship driven by Uncle Ton to take political prisoners from Poulo Condor to the mainland, the items, pictures, materials in the fields previously held and directed by Uncle Ton: National Assembly, Patriotic Competition, Red Union…
This year, Our Beloved President Ton Duc Thang reached the age of 120. It is the soul of Long Xuyen Seven Mounts and the zeal of MeKong nine streams full of alluvium rolling up have born, nurtured the Young Hai Thang, gentlemanlike, intrepid. And it is Vietnamese people and Vietnamese revolution have trained and tempered Comrade Ton Duc Thang to become the key leader of the Party and the State. Giving comments about the life and career of Uncle Ton, President Ho Chi Minh, who considered President Ton Duc Thang his helpful friend and co-worker, said: “being a typical of revolutionary ethics: all life long to be industrious, economical, integrated and upright, devoted all his life to serve revolution, to serve the people”.4
Today, Uncle Ton has gone away. Nearly three recent decades, generations of Vietnamese off-springs from North to South seem to see Him stand there, kindly smiling, with the white generous hair. It is the ethics, the modest and simple but noble manner. All about Uncle Ton, about a heroic historic stage of our people have gradually been reappeared at Ton Duc Thang Museum. We hope that in the coming time, Ton Duc Thang Museum shall develop. All cadres, officers of Ton Duc Thang Museum will be more successful. It is the profound gratitude, the bright flowers offered to our Beloved Uncle Ton by today generations of off-springs.
4 Ho Chi Minh complete works, National Political Publishing House, H 2002, volume 9, page 221.