Landmine Museum (Siam Reap)

Siam Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Centre, founded by Aki Ra, (Eoun Yeak) educates visitors about the dangers of landmines, and evolved as a way to fund his efforts to clear the country of 3-5 million remaining mines. Long (and amazing) story short, Aki Ra was conscripted as a child soldier, eventually by 3 different armies. Later he devoted himself to clearing land mines, about 50,000 of them so far. Many of them he had set himself, years earlier, and for many years he cleared them by himself, using only a stick and a knife. The museum also supports his center for at-risk children, which evolved from his own adopted family of landmine victims. Currently, there is a plan to add a teaching farm to the property. 

The American narrator on the English audio guide is very thorough and informative about the complicated history of the war in Cambodia. It is no-nonsense and to the point, often using the phrase "The problem is..." 

A collage of original snapshots in the entry chronicles the organic history of the museum from 1997-2007.

The centerpiece of the little compound is a pavilion full of cleared mines, in a small pool.


"Do not touch" has special meaning here. Of course all the mines on display are cleared. But it's critical not to allow visitors to touch them in the museum, to reinforce the message that they should never be touched when found in the ground. The audio emphatically repeats the admonition to "never touch a mine". It appears that when the museum first opened, the mine collection was displayed out in the open, and later they enclosed them in vitrines.

The paintings in the exhibition rooms are by Aki Ra. There are also murals all around the outer walls. The children have their own artroom at the Relief Centre, and their paintings are also on exhibition in a separate room.

A video loop of various documentaries.

The final exhibition room asks the visitors for their support, with the most interesting combination of elements, including the children's artwork. 

In the side courtyard are two related exhibitions which might be temporary, but appear to have been there for a while. One is "The Rescuers: Picturing Moral Courage" with portraits of everyday heroes, like Aki Ra, from around the world. Banners, in Khmer and English, are strung between the trees.

The second Exhibition "Fatal Footprint" by Handicap International, shares the same outdoor space, but uses 2 large boxes.

I am inspired by museums like this that "evolve" organically out of real world issues and community need & service. The story comes from the inside out. The staff and community are the content, the presentation, and the solution. A thoughtful amenity by the entry—a hammock shed for tuk tuk drivers.