Subscribe Search

Search form

Germany helps preserve heritage

Seng Sonetra and two students
Seng Sonetra and two students. Photo Supplied

Germany helps preserve heritage

As of late September, there have been 10 training courses for officials from museums in ASEAN countries to teach them more about conservation, namely how to repair and maintain ancient artefacts. The professional training offered by the German-Cambodia Conservation School (GCCS) is supported by funding and technical assistance from the Cultural Conservation Program of the German Foreign Office.

Seng Sonetra, a teacher with GCCS, said the school’s 10th course had just been completed and that she was preparing for the 11th course early this month.

“Trainees selected for each course are required to be staff or senior officials from any museum in the 10 ASEAN countries, and they must have archaeological skills,” she said. “In the 10 courses, we have had 20 trainers, mostly from ASEAN museums – two from Laos, five from Vietnam, four from Indonesia and one from the Philippines, and eight are officials and Cambodian students.”

Sonetra explained that each course lasts six weeks. The course is divided into three phases – the first four weeks are centred around theory and are conducted in a classroom, which is the repairing room. “We focus on the technical methodology of conserving and repairing ancient artefacts and how to use scientific tools.

“In the fifth week, we bring all trainees to the conservation hall in the National Museum of Phnom Penh.” There they can study antiques in the exhibition hall, the product of research by Cambodian and German cooperation.

“For the sixth and final week, we bring all trainees to the Angkor area so they can study and learn about stone conservation.”

In Angkor, students are trained in how to conserve ancient stone objects, led by Dr Hans Leisen, the director of the German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) in Siem Reap.

Sonetra explained: “All metal objects in the classroom at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts are real – they are evidence that our ancestors created various metal objects for daily life.”

Archeologists doing fieldwork
Archeologists doing fieldwork. Photo Supplied

Holding one object that looks like an ancient weapon, Sonetra said: “This is a spear made of metal recently found by our archaeologists from the excavated area of Pro Hear. It is a part of our study in this course.”

She added that most of the metal objects used in the course have been recently excavated from pre-historical sites in Cambodia, such in Prey Veng province.

Trainees selected to participate in the course receive sponsorship for their round trip of $300 and also $420 for accommodation, food and other expenses. It is sponsored by the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.

Sonetra received a scholarship to study the conservation of ancient heritage in Germany for three months in 2007, sponsored by the RAVE Foundation of Germany.

Vin Lai Chuor, coordinator of the Germany-Cambodia Conservation Project, said that the joint research project has enjoyed more than 20 years of success. The different projects include a human resources training program, archaeological excavations, exhibitions, printing and archaeological repair and conservation.

Through excavations carried out between 2008 and 2011 at Prahear’s 2,000-year-old burial site in Prey Veng province, “we found that the site was one of the most important places we have ever found in Southeast Asia”, according to Lai Chuor.

The research group of Memot Archaeology Centre of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, together with the German Archaeology Institute, has done a lot of work and is continuing its research and archaeological conservation of the site, especially concerning the gold jewellery and other metal artefacts discovered there.

The Cambodian-German Conservation Project was established in 2013 in cooperation with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Embassy in Cambodia and the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

With a shortage of skills in archaeological conservation and repair work on ancient artifacts, the main objective of the project is to create a conservation group in Cambodia with participation from the neighbouring countries.

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all relevant participating parties, especially the Embassy of Germany in Phnom Penh and the Conservation Program of the German Ministry, which is sponsoring this project until 2016,” Lai Chuor said.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Cambodia, states clash at UN session

    Cambodia traded shots with the international community in a heated exchange at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday evening, with states condemning the Kingdom’s ongoing crackdown on the political opposition and civil society, and an increasingly agitated Cambodia accusing member states