Conservation lab

Walls inscriptions

While preservation of the buildings and artefacts occurs at the museum, the preservation of the inscriptions or graffiti’s scratched onto the walls have received much less attention. Recently, the Director Chhay Visoth and a team of students from the Archaeology Faculty of the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh has begun the process of systematically cataloguing the inscriptions. The aim is to better understand the conditions of detention for prisoners. Inscriptions found thus far are believed to be made by both cadres and detainees. Some names scratched into the walls match the names on prisoner forced confessions preserved in the Tuol Sleng Archive.

The cataloguing of the graffiti started with Building A, in the southern part of the Tuol Sleng campus, closest to the entrance. This is the building used for interrogations. A team of volunteer researchers divided the building into smaller segments to collect the data. A total of 137 graphics were catalogued as a result of this first phase of the research.

49   Sentences written in Khmer
32   Tally marks to count number of days
18   Date written in Latin number
15   Sentences written in English
12   Name written in Khmer
7    Pictoral representation
2    Name written in English
2    Date written in Khmer number

The research will continue in the other buildings of the museum, including the cells where prisoners were detained. It is expected that these rooms will contain more and better data, especially in terms of victims’ names and last thoughts scratched onto the walls of their cells. Such information has the potential to greatly contribute to a deeper understanding of the conditions of detention at S-21.

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