Guest Speaker Investigates Cambodian Photographic Archives


A mug shot taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia for less than four years. But during that short time approximately 1.7 million people died from untreated disease, starvation or execution.

Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia,” a lecture taking place on Thursday, Sept. 12, in California State University, Northridge’s Delmar T. Oviatt Library, explores the lives captured by a series of black-and-white mug shots taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison where thousands of “enemies of the state” were tortured by the Khmer Ruoge before being sent to the “killing fields.” Giving the talk will be Michelle Caswell, assistant professor of archival studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA.

“Genocide continues to be a sad reality of our world. Mass murders of civilian populations have occurred in recent years in the Middle East and Africa, but many younger students may not understand the horrific atrocities that took place under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s,” said Mark Stover, dean of the Oviatt Library. “We hope that Dr. Caswell’s presentation will educate us on this sad history in Southeast Asia, but also encourage all of us to seek out ways to counter the continuing scourge of genocide throughout the world through research, publication, presentations and social action.

“Many students and community members do not realize that archival materials are a treasure trove that allow scholars and researchers to discover social and political trends in society,” Stover continued. “Dr. Caswell is an expert on analyzing archives and interpreting the contents of these archival collections. We are hoping that as she shares her research with the CSUN community, it will light a fire under many of our students to interest them in the possibilities of doing primary source research in libraries and archives.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. The talk will take place at 10 a.m. in the Jack and Florence Ferman Presentation Room on the Garden Level of the Oviatt Library, located in the heart of the university’s campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge. Parking on campus is $6.

For more information about this event, please call (818) 677-2638, or visit the exhibitions and events page on the Library website. Persons with disabilities needing assistance and Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons needing interpreters, please call the above number in advance for arrangements.

For more information about the library or its hours please visit their website at or call (818) 677- 2285.

Cal State Northridge’s Oviatt Library has more than 1.4 million volumes. It also subscribes to nearly 53,000 online journals, more than 2,300 print journals, more than 200 online databases and nearly 275,000 eBooks. It has an extensive audio and video collection, numbering nearly 18,000. The library’s online resources are heavily used, with almost 13 million visits to its Web pages and databases annually; and a yearly gate count of more than 1.6 million patrons. It also has an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, documents, photographs, artifacts and other archival materials. The Oviatt Library serves as the main research facility in the San Fernando Valley.