Longtime friends conserve relics together

By Liu Xiangrui In Dunhuang, Gansu Province ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-11-03 08:51:36

Longtime friends conserve relics together

Getty Conservation Institute's specialist Agnew works with a Chinese colleague from the Dunhuang Academy some 10 years ago.[Photo By Liu Xiangrui/China Daily]

A major exhibition on the Mogao Grottoes is to be held at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in May 2016.

The event is the celebration of a long relationship between members of Getty Conservation Institute and the Dunhuang Academy, which have worked together on the UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989.

The exhibition is the first large-scale display in North America on the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang along the ancient Silk Road.

Fan Jinshi, who retired earlier this year as Dunhuang Academy's director, has witnessed the growth of her academy's partnership with the institute over the years.

The academy was among the earliest in China to seek international support and cooperation in relic protection, when it had difficulties such as insufficient technology, personnel and funds to protect the grottoes in the 1980s.

"We didn't even have enough money to install protective doors for the caves," she recalls.

As Fan desperately sought financial assistance from international organizations, she found the institute with help of an Australian friend.

"They wanted work together with us on the protection instead of just giving us funds. I am glad they did that, because isn't that our purpose?" says Fan.

Since then, the institute has sent professional teams to Dunhuang twice a year. The conservationists stay for about two weeks each time, working together with their peers from the academy on relic protection work.

Each time, both sides work on specific tasks. Focus is put on different aspects, from environment monitoring, sand management, protection of wall paintings, overall protection guidelines for the site and nurturing professional talent.

According to Su Boming, the director of the academy's Relic Protection and Research Institute, the foreign experts brought in more than advanced techniques and equipment.

"While working with them, our people are greatly influenced by their working methods and their ways of thinking, which are very helpful for us to solve similar problems," says Su.

According to Martha Demas, a senior project specialist with the Getty Conservation Institute, the institute's decades-long partnership with the academy is one of the highlights of its international collaboration.

"We trust and understand one another. That makes a great difference. It happens only when you have a long partnership," says Demas, who started working 10 years ago with the academy on master planning for the site, especially visitor management.

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