Online window to Cambodian history

Recording by King Norodom Sihanouk

One of the many recordings by King Norodom Sihanouk in the collection

For the first time historians, researchers and students of Asian studies have online access to one of the world's most significant archives of Cambodian history.

The archives are digitised versions of documents, photos, music and journals from the personal collection of the former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk (1941–55 and 1993–2004). Sihanouk bequeathed part of his personal archives to the University in 2004.

Senior Asian Studies Librarian Dr Aline Scott-Maxwell said the addition of the digital files to the library’s search tool further enhances the research resources offered by the University.  

“The physical collection has already attracted a lot of interest so we anticipate the digital archives will only increase the interest,” Dr Scott-Maxwell said.

“We have had inquiries from film-makers, film studies specialists, musicologists, historians and international relations researchers, as well as members of Melbourne’s Cambodian community.

“By digitising the files it will also offer, for the first time, the chance for many Cambodians to access a very important and turbulent period of their country’s history through the eyes of their King.”

The Norodom Sihanouk Archival collection contains a significant part of the King’s personal archives: books and journals, including some written by the King; documents, correspondence and photographs relating to his political activities; more than 300 visual documents on film, video and DVD; film scripts, photographs and documents relating to the King’s own film-making activities; and sound recordings and published music scores of compositions and songs by the King.

“The King entrusted his personal archives to only two international institutions – Monash and the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient in France, reflecting the University’s reputation as a leading educational institution of Asian studies in our region,” Dr Scott-Maxwell said.

“We are very grateful to the King for making this significant donation to our collection.

“We are also grateful to Ambassador Julio Jeldres, former private secretary to the King and current PhD candidate in the Monash Asia Institute, who facilitated the original donation and, most recently, has assisted the Library with inventorying and describing the collection.”

The Norodom Sihanouk Archival Collection forms part of the Asian Studies Research Collection which includes the David Chandler Cambodia collection, a major archival collection on modern Cambodian history; some of the personal papers of the former Australian Ambassador to Cambodia (1962-69), the late Noel Deschamps, and the William and Sarah Thomas collection of photographs. It is housed on the lower ground floor of the Sir Louis Matheson Library.

“The addition of the Norodom Sihanouk Archival Collection has further enhanced the University’s Asian Studies Research Collection. We now have one of the best archival collections on Cambodia in the world,” Dr Scott-Maxwell said.

The digitised archive is now available on the Monash University library’s website in the ARROW Repository.