UNESCO supports Cambodia in documenting its heritage and guaranteeing its integrity

15 December 2017



Some 40 years ago, Cambodia was in deep political turmoil. Heritage professionals were killed among the segment of the educated population, museums closed, and archaeological sites were unprotected. Cambodia also suffered from illicit trafficking of its cultural property, with many artefacts stolen and smuggled out of the country. Today, following three decades of lasting peace and steady economic development, Cambodia is experiencing a revival. Pilgrimage to the mighty Angkor temples, and outings to museums, are popular with nationals and international visitors.

The National Museum of Cambodia, with the world’s most important collections of Angkor dynasties, stands as the major attraction of Phnom Penh, and provincial museums also hold significant collections. World Heritage sites are developing onsite museums, and thematic museums on topics such as textiles or numismatics are emerging. However, in terms of human resources in heritage management, the country still struggles to rebuild an authoritative body of personnel equipped for field work.

In the framework of its longstanding cooperation with Cambodia, UNESCO organized a nationwide training from 27 to 29 November 2017 for museums and heritage professionals to review documentation as one of the critical aspects of heritage management. Mrs PHOEURNG Sackona, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia,  stressed that “heritage documentation plays a fundamental role for education in history and the valorization of heritage” when opening the meeting, and said that she considers this issue critical for the sustainable management of Cambodia’s heritage. 

Led by Nicholas Crofts of ICOM’s International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC) and Nao Hayashi, UNESCO’s Museums Programme Coordinator, the workshops followed the recommendation of the national consultation held in July 2017 that identified the need for training in heritage documentation and appropriate management of entry, movement and condition reporting of cultural objects. 

Fifty-one professionals from 30 museums and heritage institutions took part in the training to review their institution’s challenges in documentation. A small working group made up of directors of major museums and archaeological sites is also developing a protocol of procedures for documentation, in view of establishing a standardized set of procedural guidelines on how to document and manage heritage items.