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Meas Khim (left), an employee of the National Museum of Cambodia, with Catherine Millikan, a ...
Meas Khim (left), an employee of the National Museum of Cambodia, with Catherine Millikan, a conservator from Australian National Gallery (ANG, and now National Gallery of Australia) in front of an early thirteenth century carving from Angkor Thom which formed part of the 'Age of Angkor' exhibition at the ANG in 1992. During the Khmer Rouge regime, most of the 90 French trained conservators and curators were murdered, the museum looted and records destroyed in a deliberate Khmer Rouge policy which aimed to 'abolish, uproot and disperse the cultural, literary and artistic remnants of the imperialists, colonialists and all of the other oppressor classes'. Meas Khim, now head of the stone restoration workshop, was the first surviving National Museum employee to return to work in 1979, and by the time the Museum reopened in 1980, six of the original staff had returned, while many of the new employees were relatives of staff murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Conditions in the museum, built in Phnom Penh in 1918 by the French just north of the Royal Palace, and originally named Musee Albert Sarraut in honor of the French governor-general of Indochina, reflected the years of neglect - no water or telephone, only intermittent electricity and severe structural problems caused by termites in the foundations. The ANG chose Millikan to manage an Australian Government funded conservation project designed to train the Cambodian staff in museum practices, maintenance and cleaning. The carving represents Buddha (centre) calling the earth to witness his victory over the evil Mara.
This colour image was originally reproduced in black and white in 'Shooting at the Moon' and is only available in colour.