Vietnam Projects

Art in the Age of Doi Moi

This project presents an array of documents pertaining to the period of Vietnamese History known as Doi Moi or Renovation. Doi Moi refers to the decision made by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s VIth Party Congress to liberalize the Vietnamese economy and allow growth in the private sector. Although art and culture were never addressed at the Congress proper, the impetus for change in cultural policy was made official at that time. There is still some debate over the exact dates and the exact nature of renovation in art. Some consider liberalization in art to have taken place a decade earlier after the country was reunified and artists from the North were exposed to the works of their colleagues in the South. Others see renovation taking place under the editorship of Nguyen Quan at the journal My Thuat from 1984-1989. What is certain is that Vietnamese art has gradually been released from government control since the early 1980s culminating in Vietnamese contemporary artists participation in today’s global art market.

The documents presented here were assembled by Natalia Kraevskaia, owner and co-director of Salon Natasha, Hanoi’s first non-governmental art space; Dr. Nora Taylor, Art Historian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Dr. Boitran Huynh-Beattie, independent curator, Sydney, Australia. They include records of the activities of Salon Natasha in the form of photographs, artists’ portfolios and exhibition materials. They also include copies of the Saigon edition of the journal My Thuat (Fine Art) and two video interviews of Natalia Kraevskaia and former Secretary Luong Xuan Doan.

Salon Natasha played an instrumental role in fostering experimental art practices in Hanoi. The “Salon” was housed in the home of artist Vu Dan Tan and Natalia Kraevskaia on Hang Bong street, in the heart of the capital. It had been Tan’s childhood family home as well and later his studio. The couple opened their home to artists in 1984 and began creating an exhibition program that included thematic shows, one person retrospectives and commissioned work. The door to the space was always open to visitors and guests who were welcomed with tea and candy. Salon Natasha was unique in that it was not managed by a government organization and therefore was not about State politics. And yet, thanks to outsider status and its nurturing of unofficial art practices, more than any institution it stood for the concept of renovation in art.

To learn more about Đổi Mới, please see Dr. Nora A. Taylor's "What is ̣Đổi Mới in Art?"

Materials digitized under this project:


The Hán-Nôm Special Collection Digitization Project

By John Balaban
for the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation

Around the time of Vietnamese independence from China in 939 CE, Vietnamese scholars invented Chữ Nôm as an ideographic script to represent Vietnamese speech. From the 10th century and into the 20th, much of Vietnamese literature, philosophy, history, law, medicine, religion, and government policy was written in Nôm script. During the 14 years of the Tây-Sơn emperors (1788-1802), all administrative documents were written in Chữ Nôm. Approximately 1,000 years of Vietnamese cultural history is recorded in this unique system. This heritage is now nearly lost. Most Vietnamese cannot read Nôm. Most of its texts are in physical peril, destroyed by wars, fires, humidity, and bookworms.

The Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation ( was founded in 1999 as a nonprofit agency devoted to digital preservation and study of 1000 years of writing in Chữ Nôm. Since then, the Foundation has taken the lead in the preservation of Nôm: by electronic font carving, by entering ideograms into Unicode and the International Standard (ISO), by representing Nôm script at the international meetings of the Ideographic Rapporteur Group, by publishing the first modern dictionary of Nôm in True Type Fonts, by sponsoring two international Nôm conferences, and by digitization of Nôm classics for internet display.

The Digitization Project of the Hán-Nôm Special Collection at the National Library of Vietnam is an ongoing cooperative effort between the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation and The National Library of Vietnam (, Phạm Thế Khang, Director. In April, 2006, the VNPF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Library of Vietnam to create a digital library of its ancient script collection. The NLV has one of the largest and most extensive collections of Hán and Nôm texts in the world.

For the SEADL collection of Southeast Asian works in the vernaculars and in the arts, we are pleased to present works of poetry written in the ancient script, including the sung oral poetry known as Ca Trù which is undergoing a modern revival. Few have seen these works which have not been previously accessible outside of Vietnam.

Materials digitized under this project:


Virtual Southeast Asia

The Virtual Southeast Asia project is a collection of images taken by Cornell University Library staff while in Southeast Asia.  Using those images we looked into creating several add-ons to the project, such as building 3-d models of temples in Vientiane, Laos to add to Google Earth, and creating a mapping interface for SEADL to give a secondary method of access, as opposed to the text based, menus used on the site.  Using Google maps, the interface allows anyone to view the exact location where each image or other asset was created.  The mapping interface allows for viewing the library’s holdings on the macro level, to see where in Southeast Asia the library’s images were created, and, if desired, allows for drilling down to the micro level to view individual images of sites on the map.

The Google Map viewer for this project is below:

Materials digitized under this project: