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King Father archive goes live

An extensive, and sometimes eccentric, collection of former king Norodom Sihanouk’s personal records has just become available to the world, thanks to the digitising efforts of an Australian university known for its Asian research resources.

On Monday, Melbourne’s Monash University announced the completion of digitisation of selected materials in its Norodom Sihanouk Archival Collection, which the former king bequeathed to the university in 2004.

The digitised documents include such quirky materials as the musical score and words for Homage of Khmers to Marshal Kim Il-Sung, a song written by Sihanouk for the North Korean dictator containing the lines, “Long live the Marshal, the great Leader of the Korean people, the outstanding hero of Asia, the beacon of the Revolution”; copies of Kambuja Cinema, a magazine on Cambodian cinema that was formerly published by Sihanouk; and a nine-page editorial the former king penned in 1980 about Cambodia’s struggle for sovereignty, in which he criticised the United Nations for lacking “conscience” and accused the United States of supplying arms that the Khmer Rouge used to “massacre” their countrymen.

Aline Scott-Maxwell, Monash University’s senior Asian studies librarian, said yesterday the university was “privileged” to hold such materials and therefore felt a responsibility to make the information widely available.

“This [digitisation process] is important not just to assist researchers who are unable to come to Monash, but also in making this material available to Cambodians in Cambodia and elsewhere,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to do this as a repository for significant material about Cambodia’s recent history.”

The Norodom Sihanouk Archival Collection is part of Monash University’s Asian Studies Research Collection, which contains a number of Cambodia-specific special collections, including the David Chandler collection.

Chandler is a pre-eminent scholar of modern Cambodian history, the author of five books on the subject and a professor emeritus at Monash University.

“The materials in these collections complement each other and together represent what must be one of the most important archival collections on Cambodia worldwide,” Scott-Maxwell said.

The strength of the archives had spurred other donors to begin conversations with the university about donating their collections on Cambodia, she said.

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