Brighter future ahead for An Viet Foundation archives
The largest known collection of British-Vietnamese historical documents, currently stored at Hackney Archives, was visited by the Mayor of Hackney this week, to see the work being carried out by a team of local heritage specialists, including archivists, conservators and volunteers, to preserve the records.
The invaluable catalogue of documents and artefacts, including rare self-published poetry and biographies, unique papers documenting the work of the historic An Viet Foundation, and flyers and posters produced to promote Vietnamese cultural events, were nearly lost to vandalism in 2018.
Thanks to a £30,000 grant administered by The National Archives through the Government’s Covid-19 Archives Fund, specialist conservators and volunteers have been able to to clean, survey, grade, catalogue and repack the 1293 books and almost 50 irreplaceable An Viet Foundation publications to date. A wider search for an appropriate new home for the collection is now underway.
The An Viet Foundation (AVF) was set up in Hackney in 1981 to support Vietnamese settlement in London after the Second Indochina War, and became a central hub for Vietnamese families providing support with housing, health outreach, English language, and mother-tongue classes. When the AVF formally wound up in 2017, documents from the ‘Southeast Asian Research Centre, along with the organisation’s records stored in the Old Bath House (formerly An Viet House), were significantly damaged due to vandalism. A much-loved community hub, the Old Bath House is currently set to be refurbished for use as a new East and South-East Asian (ESEA) Community Centre after Council investment was agreed to bring it back into use.
It has been amazing to play a part in supporting the preservation of the An Viet Foundation Archives. Working with the project steering panel has taught us a great deal about the important, and often personal insight these records provide into Vietnamese community histories. It's also really exciting that a new ESEA Community Centre is being developed and might once again play a part in supporting community access to this important collection.
I am delighted to be able to personally support this vital project. Seeing for myself the great work being done by the team of archivists, conservators and volunteers at Hackney Archives was so powerful and their work in preserving this important collection is crucial to ensuring we remember the long contribution of the Chinese, Vietnamese and other South East Asian communities to the borough and its economic and cultural life. It also helps us tell the stories of our proud and diverse migrant history so that we can cherish them for future generations in Hackney. It is a reminder to us all of the deep challenges many communities 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.
We have been collaborating fruitfully with Hackney Archives, to make the important early steps to ensure future generations are able to access pivotal moments of British-Vietnamese migration and diaspora history. In the coming months we will be concentrating on securing a permanent home for the archive, organising a collection viewing session for the wider community and developing a website to make the collection of documents and 300+ rare and out-of-print books on South East Asia more visible to the public. We are excited to see this important project come to fruition and are now setting our sights on securing the necessary partnerships and funding to continue this vital work.
Notes to editors
Hackney Council Press release: Investment agreed for new East and South-east Aisan Centre (Nov 2021)
Hackney Council Press release: An Viet Foundation history saved for the future (June 2021)
Hackney Citizen ‘Race to save ‘irreplaceable’ Vietnamense archives left on the roof for months’ (Nov 2019)
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 full list of grant recipients here