Cambodia Projects

Then and Now: Historical Photographs of Cambodia

Then and Now: Historical Photographs of Cambodia is a project linking the history of Cambodia from the past to the present through photographs and descriptions. It is a collaborative project between Arizona State University Libraries and Northern Illinois University Libraries aimed at digitizing old photographs taken by Mimi Palgen Maisonneuve in the 1950s and 1960s and photographing the same locations to show contemporary Cambodian life in the year 2007.

The Palgen Photo Collection from the 1950s and 1960s offers a unique look at life in Cambodia from royal ceremonies to the rural life of commoners. This time period is significant because the images record life in Cambodia just prior to the beginning of hostilities that would lead to the Khmer Rouge period and the devastation of the entire Cambodian society. The contemporary photograph collection, taken in June and July 2007, contains pictures of village and rural scenes, everyday images of the urban lives of people in Phnom Penh, Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces, and historical monuments in Siem Reap province. The connection between these old and new photographs illustrates changes in village and urban life in Cambodia over these past few decades. Cambodia scholar and NIU Anthropologist, Judy Ledgerwood, along with Political Scientist, Kheang Un, coordinate this project for NIU with a graduate student in Anthropology at NIU, Pisith Phlong, as a research assistant. ASU Libraries' Southeast Asia Bibliographer Christopher Miller coordinates work from ASU with Pamela Nguyen Corey as a research assistant.

Materials digitized under this project:


Living Memory of the Khmer

Living Memory of the Khmer is a project featuring social, political and economic changes in Cambodia between 1950s and 1990s. The project brings to life the evolving past through oral history interviews with elders who directly and indirectly experienced social and political changes and turbulence during the struggle for independence from France in late 40s and early 50s, the heyday of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum in the 60s, the Lon Nol-led Khmer Republic from 1970 to 1975, the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to1979 and the struggle to restore and reconcile the country in the 80s and 90s. The project highlights commonly known events in Cambodia’s recent history and hidden grassroots experiences of individuals which are rarely written about.

This project was co-ordinated by Pisith Phlong, a recent MA graduate in Cultural Anthropology from Northern Illinois University, currently working as a contract lecturer at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh.

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The May Ebihara Collection: Ethnographic Research in Rural Community, 1959-1995

These photographs by the late cultural anthropologist Dr. May Ebihara depict life in Cambodia in the years between 1959-60, and during the 1990s. The earlier materials represent a particularly valuable resource in that the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79) purposefully destroyed many other collections of photographs depicting society and culture in Cambodia. The original slides and prints represented in digital form here are available in Northern Illinois University Libraries' Donn V. Hart Southeast Asia Collection.

Materials digitized under this project:


International Center for Conciliation

The Victim-Former Khmer Rouge (VFKR) dialogue pilot project, a collaboration project between the International Center for Conciliation (ICfC) and the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO), aimed to rebuild and understand the fragmented relationship between victims and their direct perpetrators. While calls have been made for reconciliation from the Cambodian government, victims often wish to receive acknowledgement and an apology from their direct perpetrators. For perpetrators, overcoming cultural obstacles that hinder even the acknowledgement of crimes make an apology difficult to achieve. Because of the sensitivities and difficulties in initiating a dialogue between victims and perpetrators, this project and videos explore the possibilities of reconciliation at the community level within the Cambodian context.


a) Academic Version

This version aims to build a better understanding among stakeholders working in the field of transitional justice - including researchers, NGOs, and donors - of ways to cope with political violence at the community “micro” level. Reconciliation efforts often focus on the “macro” level in the forms of tribunals and truth commissions, but leaves individuals still recovering from psychological trauma and searching for justice with little space to process these efforts in a more meaningful manner. In the Cambodian context, this is particularly true as many communities are made up of both victims and those that inflicted direct harm against them.

b) Cambodian Outreach Version

This version aims to inspire dialogue among local Cambodian communities about their role in finding justice, healing, and reconciliation. During the Khmer Rouge period, many Cambodians lost their sense of agency and control over the direction of their own lives. Unfortunately, this feeling continued beyond the rule of the Khmer Rouge as the country attempted to rebuild itself by hushing up discussion of the past in order to stop the ongoing civil war. Many Cambodians today still transfer the responsibility of reconciliation to outside parties, especially the government, and often also believe that local reconciliation between victims and perpetrators is impossible. Without even a basic understanding between these groups, future generations are left unable to answer how Khmers could kill Khmers or why the war happened, consequently hindering efforts to prevent future conflict.


The VFKR project was implemented in a region of Kampot province, where the International Center for Conciliation (ICFC) - Cambodia had previously worked to address local transitional justice needs through the facilitation of dialogues and mediation training. In 2011, ICfC partnered with the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) of Cambodia to explore the possibilities of reconciliation at the local community level. ICfC was largely responsible for facilitating the dialogue process and a local monitoring system, while TPO contributed their mental health expertise to the further development of the methodology. A large portion of the videos used was filmed during the video exchange phase of the project in which both sides communicated their expectations and feelings to the other side. The goal of this exchange was to help build a better understanding and open communication pathways such that both sides could meet face to face and discuss these sensitive issues.

Materials digitized under this project:


Virtual Southeast Asia

The Virtual Southeast Asia project is an add-on to the Southeast Asia Digital Library that provides a mapping interface to many of the library’s assets, as opposed to the usual text based, menu driven access.  Using Google maps, the interface allows anyone to view the exact location where each image or other asset was created.  The mapping interface allows for viewing the library’s holdings on the macro level, to see where in Southeast Asia the library’s images were created, and, if desired, allows for drilling down to the micro level to view individual images of sites on the map.  While using the interface, you can also easily move beyond the SEADL to access similar images through Googles vast image holdings.  

The Google Map Viewer for this project is below:

 Materials digitized under this project: