10 December 2004
by Vu Quoc Huy
Young Vietnamese volunteers helping preserve cultural heritage site, My Son, in Viet Nam.Ha Noi, Viet Nam:
The local community has begun to support and complement the efforts of the experts through the Youth Volunteers in Cultural Heritage Preservation Project.
The United Nation's Volunteer Program (UNV) together with UNESCO and the Vietnam 's Youth Union developed the project. Applying an Integrated Heritage Management approach, the project aims to raise awareness of heritage values, build capacity for young people to effectively contribute to conservation in their community and to identify income generating opportunities for youth in heritage conservation.
The project was kicked-off in February 2004, when an initial group of five volunteers came to Hanoi to be familiarized with the basic concepts and working methods.
Following the initial workshop, the volunteers returned to their community and produced a heritage brochure, highlighting the tangible and intangible heritage values of the WH site and surrounding areas.
My Son sanctuary was the religious center of the Cham Kingdom. Its history stretches for more than ten centuries, starting in the fourth century AD. Use of the site for worship began to decline in the 13th century and ceased in the 15th century. After being in relative oblivion for hundreds of years, it's importance was recognized in 1979 when it was declared a national monument. The site covers 310 ha with eleven groups of ancient temple towers. Interestingly, they were named in the order of their rediscovery as groups A to L.
The site's importance was further recognized in 1999, when it was inscribed on the World Heritage List under Criterion as an exceptional example of cultural interchange, with the introduction the Hindu architecture of the Indian sub-continent into South-East Asia, and an important phenomenon in the political and cultural history of South East Asia, vividly illustrated in its ruins.
The first restoration work at the site was carried out by the Ecole Francaise de L'Extreme-Orient between 1933-44. Due to extreme flooding and conflict research and restoration ceased for some years.
In the 1970's the work of understanding and restoring the site was taken up again by the Ministry of Culture and Information in collaboration with a series of international experts.
Though these collaborative efforts have continued and greatly contribute to our understanding of the site, much work remains to be done. Particularly, the continuous and tedious work of removal of vegetation and consolidation of ruin bases remain challenges.
The current phase of Youth Volunteers in Cultural Heritage Preservation Project will end in February 2006. Ultimately theproject seeks to render the contribution to the conservation effort by the community sustainable and lasting.