Internship Brings Cambodian Colleagues to the Institute

Fri, 05/29/2009 - 12:00am
DC-Cam staff members participate in three-month internship program.
This spring, three staff members from the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) visited the Institute to participate in a 3-month internship program to support DC-Cam’s ongoing effort to collect testimony from survivors of the genocide perpetrated in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge regime, which claimed as many as 2 million lives.

Since 1995, DC-Cam has catalogued hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and thousands of photographs, mapped 189 prisons and 19,403 mass graves, and gathered extensive bibliographic, biographic, photographic, and geographic databases of information related to the genocide.  Last year, DC-CAM expressed interest in learning about the Institute’s experiences collecting, cataloguing and indexing, preserving, and disseminating testimony given by Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.  The two organizations determined that an internship program would facilitate an exchange of knowledge and provide insight into how DC-Cam might adapt elements of the Institute’s methodology, documentation, and practices for use in Cambodia.

“The experiences of genocide survivors must not be forgotten, and the Documentation Center of Cambodia is bringing together Cambodians of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities to share in the process of preserving these important memories of our nation,” said Youk Chhang, DC-Cam Director.

Bunthy Chey, Fatily Sa, and Ratanak Leng traveled from Phnom Penh to Los Angeles in February.  Working closely with staff at the Institute, the interns developed a 43-page draft pre-interview questionnaire (PIQ) for use with Cambodian genocide survivors, based upon the PIQ the Institute used when conducting interviews with Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.  They also conducted two pilot interviews with Cambodian genocide survivors living in the Los Angeles area, began to index the pilot interviews, and examined how the Institute uses technology to digitize and provide access to testimony.  “We learned how every step is connected,” said Ratanak, “from creating a PIQ to interviewing, to indexing, to preserving what we collect.  We went through the whole process, and the experience gave us a clearer picture of how to conduct interviews with survivors once we return to Cambodia.”

Looking ahead, Bunthy, Fatily, and Ratanak plan to incorporate what they have learned (as appropriate) into future interviews and broaden the scope of interviews DC-Cam conducts to include information about genocide survivors’ experiences before and after the Khmer Rouge period (1975–1979), as well as during those years.

“Through the spring 2009 internship program, knowledge and experience which the USC Shoah Foundation Institute gained over the past 15 years will now be able to enhance DC-Cam’s own efforts to collect and preserve survivor testimonies,” Youk said.  “We are grateful to the Institute for welcoming our staff members and look forward to future opportunities to work together.”

The partnership with DC-Cam is one example of how the Institute can share its expertise acquired through the collection, cataloguing and indexing, and preservation of the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.  It is also an important step towards the Institute’s goal of developing a small collection of testimony of survivors of other genocides for educational purposes.

“The work Bunthy, Fatily, and Ratanak accomplished at the Institute, including the development of a pre-interview questionnaire and the completion of two pilot interviews, has helped lay the groundwork necessary for the Institute to conduct interviews with Cambodian genocide survivors,” said Karen Jungblut, Institute Director of Research and Documentation.

The Institute will provide access to these testimonies for educational purposes alongside the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.  To support the Institute’s work with partners to document the personal accounts of survivors of other genocides, click here.

Related News:  Institute to Help Prepare USC Students for Field Research in Cambodia

In summer 2009, the Institute worked with the USC School of International Relations to introduce “Conflict Resolution and Peace Research,” a course which gave 10 USC students an opportunity to conduct field research in Cambodia.

Click here to learn more and to watch a video of the students’ trip.