November 14, 2012
The Heritage Watch’s heritage protection and community development project at Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia has entered its final phase, which chiefly focuses on the tour guide training program that currently involves twelve local community members.
Training covers three main topics: the history of the Banteay Chhmar temple, insight into the Banteay Chhmar community, and essential tour guide skills. These topics are divided into 16 parts, each with discussions led by an experienced guide.
Thus far, 142 hours of training have been successfully completed. Throughout the course, trainees have greatly increased their knowledge of the site and surrounding area, while also demonstrating great improvement in their command of the English language.
On-site instruction has increased significantly as well, with “hands-on” exercises in the villages that make up the Banteay Chhmar community, temple complex, and surrounding areas. This approach provides the guides with important practical experience, allowing them to use information they learned in the classroom with spoken words and visual material. Using this method, we have seen an increase in information retention amongst trainees and an improvement in their delivery to the public. Government officials have also participated in the training by giving presentations and explaining the current conservation measures undertaken at the site. This comprehensive program provides trainees with the knowledge necessary to explain all aspects of the site to visitors.
Just as important, these trainees have gained confidence in conducting tours and communicating in English. They continue to learn and practice their skills in order to meet the future needs of the industry.
The guide trainees’ hard-earned knowledge of the Banteay Chhmar temple owes much to a 406-page scholarly document created by Professor Thomas Maxwell, a Sanskrit scholar (University of Bonn, Germany) who now resides in Siem Reap. He compiled research from archaeologists, architects, historians, conservators, engineers, and ethnographers, as well as his own work on the inscriptions from Banteay Chhmar. The purpose of this extensive document is to provide a comprehensive overview of the site by incorporating the most recent studies of the temple by Cambodian and international researchers. This material is the cornerstone of the whole training experience.
An abridged and more publicly-accessible form of this material, including maps and illustrations, is being prepared in both English and Khmer to serve as a continuing aid to the guides, enabling them to review materials both in their native language and in their newly-acquired English.
In addition, the training program manual has been approved by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. The Ministry has expressed its appreciation for this program, as our efforts at Banteay Chhmar contribute considerably to both the guides’ and local communities’ understanding of this unique temple. It serves as a model that the Ministry hopes to implement at other archaeological and cultural sites.
Heritage Watch believes that this training program is making a positive impact on the communities around Banteay Chhmar. Not only does it provide local residents with a potential career, but it also encourages visitors to increase their understanding and appreciation of the importance of preserving heritage through conservation, tourism promotion, and protection of the site.