An Viet Foundation History Secured For The Future
The largest known archive of British-Vietnamese history has been secured for future generations thanks to intervention by Hackney Chinese Community Services and Hackney Council.
The invaluable catalogue of documents and artefacts, which were nearly lost to vandalism, include rare self-published poetry and biographies, irreplaceable papers documenting the work of the An Viet Foundation and flyers/posters produced to promote Vietnamese cultural events, have been saved, and will now receive emergency conservation treatment before being moved to a new home.
The work is a result of a successful grant application to the Government’s £500,000 Covid-19 Archives Fund, administered by The National Archives.
The historical documents belong to The An Viet Foundation (AVF), which was set up in Hackney in 1981 to support Vietnamese settlement in London after the Second Indochina War. It was a central hub for Vietnamese families providing support with housing, health outreach, English language, and mother-tongue classes. The AVF housed the ‘Southeast Asian Research Centre’ which was established by Mr Vu Khanh Thanh, the AVF’s former Director.
When the AVF formally wound up in 2017, the documents from the research centre along with the organisation’s records were stored in the Old Bath House (formerly An Viet House) on Englefield Road, but were significantly damaged due to vandalism.
Hackney Archives Manager Dr Etienne Joseph said: “When I first learnt about the plight of the AVF archive collection I was really concerned that such a unique and valuable piece of Hackney’s history could be lost forever. The grant from the Covid-19 Archives Fund means that we are now able to work together with Hackney Chinese Community Services and representatives of Hackney’s Vietnamese community to rescue the material and make sure the history of the An Viet Foundation and the people it served remains part of our local and national story.”
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney said: “I was really pleased to be able to personally support this vital project having visited the archive only a few months before the dreadful vandalism occurred. We collectively owe a duty to uphold the legacy of our Chinese, Vietnamese and other South East Asian communities, preserving it for future generations in Hackney.
This work is crucial to recognising their long contribution to the borough and its economic and cultural life; but also in telling and cherishing the stories of our proud and diverse migrant history. Reminding us all of the deep challenges many communities often faced as they built their home here., We’re grateful for this fund which will help us work with the community to stop the loss of this valuable heritage, keeping these chapters of our past safe and accessible to everyone.”
Cuong Pham, artist, researcher and member of the steering panel leading the work to secure the An Viet legacy said: "I, along with the Steering Group for the An Viet Foundation Archives and Hackney Chinese Community Services the current custodians, hope that in collaboration with Hackney Archives, with the support of the TNA Covid-19 fund we are able to take the first steps to ensure future researchers and generations are able to access pivotal moments of British-Vietnamese migration and diaspora history."
Photos from an exhibition held at An Viet House called 'Record, Retrieve, Reactivate' March 2018, co-curated by Cuong Pham & Will Pham. Image Credit: Jalaikon.
For more information about the project contact - Archives@hackney.gov.uk
Find out more about Hackney Archives
Find out more about the TNA Covid Archives fund here
See the full list of grant recipients here