UNESCO helps preserve Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archives in Cambodia
The UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh will assist the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in the preservation of the historical documentary collection from the former S-21 prison and interrogation centre. It is estimated that over 15,000 prisoners were held in this former high school by the Pol Pot regime. The collection, which has been inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, contains photographs, 'confessions' and biographical records of prisoners.
The historical photographs and documents from the site of the S-21 prison and interrogation centre of the Pol Pot regime, currently held at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), are now listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Last July the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, announced the inscription of this collection on the Register, on the recommendation of the International Advisory Committee, which recognised its outstanding value and world significance.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archives include various documents showing the fate of over 15,000 prisoners who were held from 1975 to 1979 in the Tuol Sleng compound. The Archives include 4,186 'confessions' (many extracted under torture); 6,226 biographies of prisoners; 6,147 photographic prints and negatives of prisoners, demolished buildings, research activities, mass graves and remains of victims, as well as photos of visitors.
These Archives constitute the most complete existing documentary picture of the Democratic Kampuchea prison system, a fundamental part of the regime under which about 2-3 million people (25-30% of the population) lost their lives in a period of 3 years, 8 months and 20 days.
Copies of these historical documents have already been made. However, much more needs to be done in order to preserve the collection. UNESCO's Office in Phnom Penh will assist the Museum in the preservation of the originals in danger of destruction, mainly because of the tropical climate.
The Museum has started the digitalisation of the most significant parts of the Archives. The Tuol Sleng Museum personnel lack capacity and management skills, which is the case of many Cambodian institutions. In order to address this issue, UNESCO's Phnom Penh Office, in collaboration with the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO and the National Museum, is organising a workshop for Cambodian Memory of the World focal points. During this training, to be held from 14 to 17 September 2009, about 30 participants will learn how to advocate, preserve and identify the national documentary heritage. They will, subsequently, become members of a future National Memory of the World Committee.
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