Behind one of many world’s largest museum collections devoted to Vietnamese refugees is a dream of 1 San Jose man who needs to maintain their tales alive.
Tucked in a nook of San Jose Historical past Park, a yellow historic Victorian home is house to the Museum of the Boat Individuals & Republic of Vietnam, the place founder and Government Director Loc Vu has devoted his life to preserving the historical past of Vietnamese refugees.
Lining the partitions are circumstances of artifacts, lots of of pictures, maps and commissioned artwork of Vietnamese refugees and their escape from the homeland after the autumn of Saigon in 1975.
The museum, also referred to as the Viet Museum, opened its doorways in 2007 and welcomed tens of 1000’s of tourists a 12 months previous to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vu, a former colonel within the Military of South Vietnam who got here to the U.S. together with his household in 1976, has spent greater than 20 years gathering and shopping for handwritten letters, pictures, weapons, uniforms, medals and even an precise boat for the gathering.
“We began engaged on the museum in 1990,” Vu advised San José Highlight in Vietnamese. “It took time and some huge cash, which all got here by way of donations from everywhere in the world.”
The museum, situated greater than two miles from downtown San Jose, is among the many few cultural landmarks in Silicon Valley that honors the Vietnamese boat folks and their descendants. San Jose is house to greater than 140,000 Vietnamese residents, making it town with the biggest Vietnamese inhabitants within the U.S.
Conserving the tales of boat folks alive
On a sunny March morning, Vu, sporting a pale bucket hat and a light-weight jacket over his brown polo shirt, helped volunteers clear up the yard of the museum. His eyes beam at each nook of the historic house that shows his life’s work.
Each artifact has a narrative of the way it got here to the museum, Vu mentioned. He additionally heads the nonprofit, Immigrant Resettlement and Cultural Heart, that helps Vietnamese refugees within the U.S.
One in every of his favourite items is a bronze map, prominently displayed on the entrance of the museum. It depicts a world with out borders the place boat individuals who got down to sea in a quest for freedom might discover a new house.
“If we aren’t gathering them and creating new artwork about this now, the historical past and expertise of thousands and thousands of individuals will disappear,” Vu mentioned. “It would all be gone.”
San Jose and Santa Clara County weren’t occupied with funding the museum when Vu first began engaged on the undertaking, he mentioned. To flip his imaginative and prescient into actuality, Vu rallied the Vietnamese group, in addition to politicians—together with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter—to assist the undertaking.
The museum dedicates a wall to all main donors, together with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and former Congressman Mike Honda, amongst others.
Lofgren, who has recognized Vu since her days of regulation faculty, mentioned the Viet Museum is the delight and pleasure of Silicon Valley.
“I’ve significant recollections of occasions helping the very first refugees who arrived after the autumn of Saigon, establishing language, well being and academic providers on the Board of Supervisors, volunteering with the Purple Cross and dealing collectively on the institution of the Viet Museum,” Lofgren advised San José Highlight. “The Viet Museum has performed important work documenting and educating future generations concerning the experiences of the multiple million folks from Vietnam who’ve resettled within the U.S. and the numerous contributions the Vietnamese-American group has made to the South Bay.”
Through the current Tết celebration at San Jose Historical past Park, Santa Clara County officers honored Vu for his years of service on the museum.
“Loc Vu’s preservation of the Vietnamese refugee historical past is itself a lifelong dedication to the protection of human rights,” Chavez, who represents the realm, advised San José Highlight. “The Viet Museum honors the expertise of so many who misplaced a lot and serves as a name to motion to not let historical past repeat itself.”
Vu, who many additionally name “Uncle,” usually spends his days on the museum. The previous colonel, who’s now in his 80s, had considered retiring—however has had hassle discovering a alternative to handle the museum till not too long ago.
The job requires dedication and fervour, but it surely doesn’t pay, Vu mentioned.
Hong Cao, a longtime San Jose resident who not too long ago retired from his Metropolis Corridor job, mentioned it’s an honor to be handed the torch from Vu.
“Uncle Loc has been in search of someone to take over,” Cao advised San José Highlight. “I’m fairly new at organizing in our group, however I’ll attempt my finest to maintain the museum going.”
Cao hopes to begin digitizing the artifacts within the museum and to create listening excursions for guests.
Outdoors of the museum, Manpreet Dhindsa and his 3-year-old son Prawaan mentioned they’ve visited a number of occasions. Dhindsa mentioned he learns new issues with every go to.
“It’s an important expertise studying the historical past of our group,” he advised San José Highlight. “The museum’s actually a window into the previous.”
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or observe @nguyenntrann on Twitter.