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The country we call Vietnam has expanded, divided and reunified over the centuries, so it is hard to link it to a specific territory. Vietnamese are proud of a long history tracing back as far as the Bronze Age, but how can we make a direct link between an ancient civilization and today’s nation-state? The same questions can be asked of any country and its national heritage. For example, why are Stonehenge and Magna Carta part of English history, and worth preserving and commemorating today? Why does the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 continue to have resonance for Scottish people? How do history, culture and tradition help us identify with our ‘home’ country, and even feel patriotic about it?
Taking Vietnam as an example, the exhibition explores how people identify with their own cultural heritage to feel a sense of belonging to a particular country or community. Finally, the exhibition highlights how governments can shape people’s interpretation of history and national community. For instance, how important is the sea to an ‘island nation’ like Britain, or a country like Vietnam whose maritime claims conflict with those of China?