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
"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.
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.