Yale Tries To Salvage Historic Khmer Newspapers

US librarians at Yale University Lib­rary sent the most complete known collection of late 1980s and ear­­ly 1990s Cambodian newspapers for freeze-drying in an attempt to salvage them from water damage caus­ed when a burst pipe triggered the sprinkler system.

Approximately 3,000 titles from the library’s Southeast Asia collection got wet when heat from the burst steam pipe triggered the fire prev­ention sprinkler system Jan 7, according to a Yale press release.

The damaged papers, which in­clude editions of Kampuchea newspaper from 1986 to 1992 and approximately 58 titles from the Untac period and the years immediately following, are currently at a freeze drying facility in Chicago, Illinois, said Rich Richie, South and Southeast Asia Collections Curator at the lib­rary.

Only the Cambodian newspaper collec­­tion—not yet microfilmed—is con­sidered irreplaceable, Richie wrote in an e-mail last week.

“The basic process involves flash freez­ing the wet library material and then drawing off the ice crystals with a strong vacuum, without letting the material thaw,” Richie wrote.

“The procedure is repeated until all the water is drawn off while the mater­ial is in a frozen state. We ex­pect the process to take six to eight weeks.”

Documentation Center of Cam­bo­­dia Director Youk Chhang said he be­lieves that most if not all of Yale’s dam­aged collection would likely be avail­able at the Cambodian Na­­tional Archive or National Li­brary.

Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith, who was editor of the newspaper Kampuchea in the 1980s, said that his paper was kept in the National Archives, but he was too busy to comment further Sun­day.

Youk Chhang added that he was re­lieved to hear that Yale’s Cambo­dian Genocide Program records were not damaged. That collection in­cludes microfilm of most of DC-Cam’s archives.

 

 

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