French Project Digitally Revives Indochina’s Pictorial Heritage

Photos and illustrations from books on French Indochina published as long ago as the 1860s are being distributed to public libraries throughout Cambodia in a three-CD/DVD box set.

About 10,000 images—4,000 of them on Cambodia—were reproduced as part of a project to put on computer pictures from books written about Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam between 1860 and 1935 as part of France’s Valease project, said Jean-Jacques Donard, Valease’s technical adviser to Cambodia’s National Library and National Archives.

The box set, which was launched Thursday at the National Library in Phnom Penh, contains images from 5,000 books, many of them rare if not inaccessible, Donard said.

Those images have already been posted at the National Library Web site,, where the full text of the books will soon be posted as well, Donard said.

“This is about memories” and giving young people a visual sense of their countries in the recent past, he said.

The Internet-savvy young generation tends to ignore the history of their countries, Donard said. “This is especially the case in Cambodia, where the transmission of the country’s heritage was so brutally interrupted during the Khmer Rouge era,” he said. Images from 5,000 more books should be posted at the library’s Web site and will be available on CD/DVD toward the end of the year, Donard added.



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