We are partnering with the Department of Archaeology and National Museum in Myanmar on a multiyear project to develop a holistic and sustainable approach to complex conservation and management issues across the site of Bagan. Our collaborative project will address five targeted conservation challenges: site management; repair and seismic retrofitting of monuments; conserving decorated elements of the site; recording, documentation, and information management; and the training of local professionals. The long-term goal is the improved conservation and management of the site of Bagan as well as other sites within Myanmar and in Southeast Asia.

A Vast Cultural Landscape

Situated on a bend of the Ayeyarwady River in the dry central plain of Myanmar, Bagan is a vast cultural landscape encompassing an extraordinary ensemble of Buddhist art and architecture. Begun as an ancient Pyu Kingdom settlement, Bagan flourished as the royal capital of the Bagan Civilization between 1044–1287 CE, until its collapse following the Mongol invasion.

The over 3,500 temples, stupas, monasteries, and archaeological remains, which house an astonishing collection of wall painting, sculpture, stucco, glazed decoration, votive tablets and inscriptions, are the surviving vestiges of this powerful empire and the practice of merit-making. The site is a testament to the consolidation of social, political, and economic power and the rise of Theravada Buddhism during the Bagan Period that enabled its extensive construction.

These monuments are an integral part of a continuous living tradition of religious activity. The intangible values of religious use are inseparable from the physical structures.

In July 2019, the site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Bagan Today

Today, the archaeological site of Bagan covers 50 square kilometers and continues to be an important place of pilgrimage and worship as well as traditional cultural and agrarian practices.

However, Bagan is subject to natural and human-made risks which threaten its long-term survival. Located in a seismic zone and subject to occasional flooding, Bagan’s monuments have been affected for centuries by these natural hazards, which are now compounded by climate change and shifts in foresting practice that can negatively impact the site.

In 2016, the Chauk earthquake damaged over 400 structures. This event focused renewed international attention on the site and assisted in directing conservation efforts. There remains, however, significant strategic and detailed work to be done in assisting the Department of Archaeology and National Museum to meet their obligations to sustain and conserve the site over the long term now that emergency assistance has dissipated.

The Collaborative Project

Our work with the Department of Archaeology and National Museum is expected to take ten years (2018–2028) and is organized into five components (below) and a Model Field Project:

Site Management

Repair and Retrofitting of Monuments

Conservation of Decorated Elements

Recording and Documentation


Expected Project Outcomes

Long term:

Improved conservation and management of the site of Bagan as well as other sites within Myanmar, and in Southeast Asia

Medium term:

Increased application of appropriate and integrated values-based conservation and management methodologies

Enhanced capacity of the Department of Archaeology and National Museum in conservation decision-making and application sustained over the long term

Heightened recognition and support of conservation as a multidisciplinary profession in Myanmar and models of practice for ensuring the sustained development of individual disciplines (e.g. architecture, conservation)

Short term:

Improved understanding of the significance of the site as a whole and the relationship between individual components as it pertains to its conservation and management

Improved awareness and understanding of appropriate conservation principles, methodologies, and critical decision-making at Bagan

Improved application of materials, techniques, and diagnostic tools for the conservation of monuments at Bagan (including structural and decorated elements)

Increased training opportunities for Department of Archaeology and National Museum staff

Page updated: October 2019