Archival research can be exciting and challenging. It can also be time consuming.
Archival records are more complex and difficult to research than books and there is no single subject index to the collection. Unless we advise you before you visit that we have identified relevant records you should allow yourself a minimum of several hours to search for, order and read the records. If your inquiry is complex or you are doing detailed research you will probably need more than one visit. Thorough research, for example for writing an article on a particular subject, typically takes several days.
When you arrive NAC staff on duty in the reading room will be available to assist you. Tell them as much as you can about what you are looking for. This will help them to determine where relevant records are likely to be located and to suggest where you should start your search.
It will help you to make the most of your visit if you first do some background reading about your topic. We suggest that you first consult books, encyclopaedias and other published works, or if you are undertaking genealogical research, that you establish names, dates of birth, dates of arrival, etc. This preliminary research using secondary sources will not only increase your knowledge of the topic and its historical context but it will give you a lead to other sources of information and may give you clues about where to start your search when you visit the NAC.
It is also important to remember that our documents are organized in different collections according to their provenance, the period they cover, their nature (archival document, periodical, book…) or their format (large format maps for instance are kept in a separate collection). While there are catalogues and databases for most of our collections which in many cases can be searched according to subject category or keywords, there is no single subject index or catalogue that lists every item in our holdings and thus there is no one place to start that suits all types of research. The information you are seeking and the time you have available will determine where you should start. It is thus essential that you familiarize yourself first with our holdings and how they are organized. Click here to learn more about our collections.
Alternatively to beginning your search at the NAC reading room, you also have the possibility to consult our online catalogue prior to a visit to identify specific files you want to consult. This will allow you to focus on the consultation of documents only while at the NAC. Click here to access our catalogue.
The NAC has established a small brochure that gives some basic clues for those who are unfamiliar with how to conduct archival research. It is available at the NAC reading room or can be downloaded here in Khmer (add pdf file) or French.