Stone conservation in Angkor
Title: Stone conservation in Angkor
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: National Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA)
Overall term: 2006 to 2018
The Angkor temples as a symbol of Cambodia – The Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap is Cambodia’s most important cultural heritage site, and also its biggest tourist attraction. It brings in millions of visitors from around the world every year, who play an important part in the country’s economic development. Siem Reap City in particular is heavily reliant on tourism. However, the temples, with their superb reliefs and statues, are at high risk of loss or damage due to weathering.
It is important to ensure the preservation of the ‘City of Gods’ and thus sustain the interest that draws both Cambodian and foreign tourists. Sustainably protecting the cultural heritage of Angkor will require the development of local stone conservation expertise within the National Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA)
Preserving the temples of Angkor will also enhance the cultural and political stability of Cambodia. The temples are a national symbol, and it is no coincidence that Cambodia is one of only two countries in the world that features a building in its national flag: Angkor Wat.
Cambodian experts are able to conserve and restore the Angkor temples.
Until 2007, restoration work on the Angkor temples was only carried out by international teams, as APSARA did not have the appropriate capacity to do the work. Since 2007, however, GIZ has been assisting APSARA in setting up the Stone Conservation Unit (SCU). The SCU currently consists of three local experts and two technical advisors.
The project provides Cambodians with training in conservation and restoration techniques. As such, it also helps the participants to gain a secure income. GIZ is using its longstanding experience of capacity development to strengthen the existing local capacities. This is especially important for a country like Cambodia, where as a social group most intellectuals were murdered by the Khmer Rouge regime. The necessary knowledge for preserving the temples was lost and must now be reintroduced. At present, there is nowhere in Cambodia that one can study stone conservation. As no written teaching materials existed for Cambodians, the SCU developed a handbook that can be used either for lectures or for on-site training. In the long run, APSARA will be able to train new conservators and thus reduce the dependence on international projects.
The goal for 2012 is to expand the Stone Conservation Team within APSARA, with new colleagues being trained by the local SCU experts. GIZ experts underline the need for close cooperation and exchanges of experiences between the international teams and their Cambodian counterparts. They also perform advisory and coordination roles, as well as organising workshops and other training activities. New training units for stone conservators are currently being prepared, and courses will be developed to improve the trainers’ theoretical knowledge.
Results achieved so far
- The SCU is now well equipped to undertake conservation work in Angkor. Already it has completed eight projects on behalf of international partners and eleven for the local partner organisation (restoring around 100 Objects in total).
- The office and workshop are now well established.
- Conservation activities are planned, coordinated and executed successfully, and measures for monitoring the condition of the monuments have been integrated into daily work.
- SCU is regularly asked to act as a consultant to other national and international teams.
- A data collection system is now in operation, which is kept up to date, with clear, well ordered data from all worksites.
- A list has been developed of national and international traders and logistics firms able to supply and transport conservation materials.
- A handbook has been developed in Khmer and English for the training of stone conservators. This will serve as the standard textbook for future training.