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Presentation and Interpretation for Cave 85
tourists inside Cave 85, Mogao Grottoes

In 1997 the GCI began its collaborative project Wall Paintings at Mogao Grottoes, with the Dunhuang Academy (DA) under the State Administration for Cultural Heritage (SACH) in China. The goal of this project was to design, implement, and disseminate a methodology for the conservation of wall paintings in Cave 85 at Mogao, following the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China, which is adaptable to other cave temples at Mogao and to other Silk Road sites.

The conservation of the wall paintings and sculpture of Cave 85 was completed in 2009 after more than a decade of research, analysis, and testing, followed by implementation of treatment and preventive measures. Since the culmination of the project, the GCI and the Dunhuang Academy have been developing lighting and presentation schemes to enhance the experience of visitors.

Until recently, Dunhuang Academy guides used flashlights to illuminate the art of the caves. In larger, darker caves, this did not make for a satisfying experience for visitors, who were unable to assimilate or appreciate the visual entirety of the wall paintings or the details on the high ceiling panels. In order to enhance and diversify visitors' experience in larger caves, the GCI and DA undertook a new approach to presentation and interpretation in Cave 85. A raised platform now allows visitors a better vantage point from which to appreciate the art, illuminated bilingual interpretation panels explain the conservation approach, and LED lighting provides better illumination for the walls. Together, these enhancements offer an experience that has been well received both by guides (who still use flashlights, but as pointers) and by visitors.

While LED lighting is deemed safe with levels of 80 lux, color temperature of 2900 K, and a color rendering index of 90, light dosimeters have been deployed in the cave to measure the effects, if any, of lighting on the wall paintings. The approach developed for Cave 85 is especially suitable for the larger caves at Mogao, and will enhance the visit for those who would like to spend more time absorbing information and reflecting on the art and conservation efforts. This approach has been developed to meet evolving visitor expectations and interests and to address, in part, the challenges of increasing visitation at Mogao. Based on this model, presentation and interpretation concepts are being developed for other selected caves.