Beginning in July 2020, the National Archives Center IV embarked on a project to conserve 500 deteriorated woodblock plates. Utilizing advanced conservation techniques, the woodblock plates were carefully restored to their original condition.
The initiative, which received more than US$88,000 in funding from the United States Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), has now been successfully completed.
Following the approval of the AFCP grant in July 2020, a technical team conducted a thorough study and assessment of the extent of damage sustained by the degraded woodblocks. By utilizing a combination of visual inspection and advanced imaging techniques, the team was able to accurately identify the severity of the damage and create a plan to restore the woodblocks. The results of this assessment provided the foundation for the AFCP grant to fund the restoration of the woodblocks, which will ultimately help to preserve the history and culture of the area.
On May 25, 2023, newly-treated Nguyen Dynasty woodblock plates were conserved at the National Archives Center IV in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam. M.V./Tuoi Tre captured this moment in a photograph.
|Newly-treated Nguyen Dynasty woodblock plates are conserved at the National Archives Center IV in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam, May 25, 2023. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre
The evaluation revealed that approximately 5,000 woodblock plates had been detrimentally impacted by a range of historical factors, the natural aging process, the tropical climate, wars, floods, as well as fungal and insect activities over the centuries.
From January to the end of August 2021, the team implemented conservation treatment on the decaying woodblocks, employing a range of techniques used in more developed nations such as Japan, South Korea, and France. The treatments included the use of specialized adhesives, consolidants, and protective coatings that will help to preserve the woodblocks for future generations.
The National Archives Center IV houses an impressive collection of 34,555 woodblock plates engraved with Chinese characters. This collection, which dates back centuries, provides a unique insight into Chinese history and culture.
|U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper (L) points at Nguyen Dynasty woodblock plates conserved at the National Archives Center IV in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam, May 25, 2023. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre
These Nguyen Dynasty woodblocks contain a wealth of diverse content, providing invaluable insights into the various aspects of Vietnamese culture and life during the era. With these woodblocks, we are able to gain a better understanding of the Nguyen Dynasty and its people.
Primarily used for book printing in Vietnam from the 19th to the early 20th century, woodblocks serve as a valuable historical resource. They provide insight into the culture, art, and literature of the time, allowing for a more complete understanding of the past. Beyond this, woodblocks also offer a glimpse into the printing methods of the era, providing valuable information for researchers and historians. Furthermore, they can also be used to help recreate lost works, such as books, manuscripts, and other forms of media. In short, woodblocks are a vital part of Vietnam’s cultural and historical heritage, offering a unique and important look into the nation’s past.
|U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper (L, 2nd) watches Nguyen Dynasty woodblock plates conserved at the National Archives Center IV in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam, May 25, 2023. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre
During Thursday’s ceremony, Marc Knapper, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, emphasized the importance of preserving cultural heritage as one of the many facets of the strong relationship between the two nations.
He mentioned that the United States has provided funding for a total of 16 projects in this realm in Vietnam since 2001, amounting to a combined value surpassing $1.2 million.