conservation image

The GCI is continuing its successful collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy in China, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and China’s Lanzhou University on a three-year master’s degree course in wall paintings conservation held at Lanzhou University, Gansu Province, China. Last fall, a second class of nine master’s degree candidates was admitted to the program, which includes instruction from GCI, Lanzhou University, Dunhuang Academy, and Courtauld sta. The inaugural class of students graduated from the program in spring 2007.

China has considerable teaching resources in the sciences and other related disciplines but has not yet offered a degree program in wall paintings conservation at the graduate level. Building on the Dunhuang Academy-GCI project for the conservation of the wall paintings in Cave 85 at the Mogao Grottoes (see Conservation, vol.19, no.3), the master’s degree course in wall paintings conservation includes teaching on documentation methods, investigation of original techniques, causes of deterioration, and treatment approaches. The program provides an integrated approach to conservation education in which theoretical teaching is applied in a closely supervised context that encourages the development of individual skills, as well as critical judgment and decision making.

As part of the master's degree course, fieldwork is being undertaken in Cave 260, an early sixth-century (Northern Wei Dynasty) cave at Mogao that presents a wide range of conservation problems typical of the site but different from those found in Cave 85. The work in Cave 260 provides an important link between theoretical teaching and practical application at a wall paintings site

Training is an important component of the GCI's mission in China, and it has been incorporated into project work throughout the Institute's twenty years of involvement with the Dunhuang Academy at the Mogao Grottoes. The GCI and Dunhuang Academy have worked together on a number of site-wide issues, such as the problem of structural instability of some of the caves and sand migration; site management with the drafting of a master plan for the site; an eight-year project to conserve the wall paintings in Cave 85; and, most recently, an ambitious visitor management and visitor capacity study and plan.

For more information on the collaborative work of the GCI and the Dunhuang Academy to conserve and manage the wall paintings at the Mogao Grottoes, visit the project Web site.