In September and October 2000, a Getty Conservation Institute team continued its collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy at the Mogao grottoes in China on a wall paintings conservation model project.
Cave 85, the large Tang dynasty cave temple at the site, is the focus of the project. Thus far, work has included intensive diagnostic study of the active deterioration processes affecting the wall paintings.
During the five-week field campaign last fall, the project team completed emergency treatment procedures—microgrouting and the re-adhering of paint flakes with water and Japanese tissue paper. Laboratory-based grouting tests were completed, and three grout mixtures were selected for final testing and in situ trials. New edge repairs were made around the bases of walls, and original plaster and painting were recovered from beneath previous repairs. The vulnerable areas of plaster detachment were protected by installation of frames and presses that will also be used during grouting of these areas.
The emphasis of the intervention is not so much on new treatment materials and techniques—although significant advances are being made in some fresh areas—but on assisting the Dunhuang Academy to refine a conservation approach that stresses minimal intervention, use of compatible materials, and a methodology that seeks to minimize the unwanted side effects that have hampered past interventions at Mogao.
As in previous campaigns, wall paintings conservators and site managers from Dunhuang and other Silk Road sites participated in the work.