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Heritage Center Visiting Phnom Bakheng Conservation Project

In the first week of June, a group of young and talented professional participating in training offered by the Heritage Center visited WMF’s Phnom Bakheng conservation project in Angkor. The students, from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, are being trained in the field of heritage management by a team from the French École de Chaillot and by experts in the field including Pierre-André Lablaude, Architecte en chef des Monuments Historiques, and also a member of the UNESCO ad hoc experts for Angkor.

WMF’s Executive Vice President, Lisa Ackerman, introduced the group to the organization’s history and activities worldwide. After discussion in the classroom at Conservation d’Angkor, the group moved to Angkor Archaeological Park and assembled at the base of the hill to walk to the top together. Lisa made good use of the signboards at the bottom of the hill to talk about what the group would see. Conversation ensued as the group walked up the hill together and paused at one of the viewing platforms along the way. Once atop the hill, Bunwat Hum, WMF’s Technical Coordinator, and Phally Cheam, WMF’s Senior Architect, led the group through the site, explaining the evolution of the work and responding to questions about the approach employed by the WMF project team. Lively discussions continued as the group walked around the site and climbed to the top of the temple.

Bunwat explained to the trainees that WMF is is addressing structural damage caused over centuries by reinstating structural stability and protecting the site from water infiltration. The project has involved thorough examinations of the cause of damage, an analysis of drainage issues at the site, and improving the temple’s ability to shed rainwater effectively. Phally presented the group with solutions developed in collaboration with APSARA National Authority to manage the site, improve the tourism experience, and present the site effectively. She spoke about the creation of viewing platforms, improvements to the paths, and the ways in which visitors are managed by limiting the number of people on the temple at sunset to avoid overcrowding.

The trainees were very enthusiastic in their response to learning about the many aspects of conservation at a heritage site and the complex decisions that are made both for technical matters and for visitor management. The lively discussions that arose during the visit demonstrated the competence and high degree of professionalism of the trainees. WMF’s Cambodia staff were eager to share their knowledge with other young professionals.