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National Museum Library Gets US Funding

Between the narrow spaces of the archives of the National Museum, not far from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, lie documents of Cambodia's heritage that are more than 100 years old.

On a recent morning, a concerned Ly Ye, director of the National Museum's archive, looked over a wooden cabinet full of books turning red with age. Even changes in the weather could further damage the books.

"It can be damaged by itself, because it is very old, and nature can destroy the paper," she said.

Threatened with deterioration from age, documents like these will get preservation with help from the US, through an ambassador's fund. The US Embassy pledged $45,000 earlier this month to help the National Museum preserve its book collection and to rebuild part of the library.

Some of the books in the library document archeological research of Khmer artists, the history of ancient temples, and other texts written by the French at least 120 years ago.

Som Aol, a former student of the Royal University and an archeologist, said the documents can be a source of research for students.

"It is very difficult, because these documents are in a foreign language, especially in French," he said. "I am not good at it, but now I have started to learn French bit by bit [but] I think it is very useful and easy for Khmer youths to do more research."

US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said during a signing ceremony for the funds on Aug. 18 that even a small amount of money could make a significant contribution to the museum's library.

National Museum Director Hab Touch said the funds would be used to renovate the library with equipment needed to repair books, as well as undertake translations of some of the texts.