The Modern Period: The creation of the
It is indeed likely that Angkor was a primary motivation
behind the founding of the Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient
in 1899, and it is not mere coincidence that its first director
was a specialist in Sanskrit and Khmer epigraphy. In 1908,
after the province of Siem Reap was returned by the Siamese
to the French Protectorate, the Ecole Française created
the Conservation d'Angkor, which was to play a major role
in the research, conservation, and restoration activities
carried out at Angkor by the Ecole up until the early 1970s.
With the Angkor Conservation Office at its base, a system
for the ma-nagement of Angkor as a geographic and historical
unit was to develop over the course of the twentieth century.
However neither under the colonial administration nor after
Independence was there ever a major policy of tourist promotion
of Angkor. The park was appreciated for its exceptional
archaeological and historical importance rather than for
its tourist value.
While research findings of the Ecole Française
and other colonial authorities were regularly presented
to a specialized audience, this growing body of knowledge
on the Angkorian civilization was never actually incorporated
into academic or technical training programs within the
country itself. Never in its years under French control,
or indeed after, did the Conservation undertake the training
of Khmer nationals in archaeological research, conservation
and restoration techniques or cultural heritage management.
Upon Independence, finding itself thus with no capable archaeological
personnel, the Royal Khmer Government continued to confide
the management of Angkor to the Ecole Française.
It was not until 1965, when the University of Fine Arts
in Phnom Penh was founded, that the training of Khmer nationals
in the field of archaeology was to earnestly begin. The
Archaeology Department was the central component of a larger
national policy aiming to ensure the gradual transfer of
management and research activities concerning the Khmer
cultural heritage to Cambodian nationals. This nascent policy
of Khmerization was however quickly suspended with the onslaught