research forum visiting conservator seminar


Sustainable Visitation at the Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, China

Thursday, 8 March 2012

16.00 - 18.00, Courtauld Conservation Department

nine-level pagoda
The nine-story pagoda that houses a monumental Tang dynasty Buddha figure. Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, China. Courtesy Getty Conservation Institute.

Speaker(s): Dr Martha Demas (Senior Project Specialist, Getty Conservation Institute) and Dr Neville Agnew (Principal Project Specialist, Getty Conservation Institute)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission but due to space limitations could you please contact Professor David Park (david.park@courtauld.ac.uk) if you would like to attend this seminar

Organised by: Professor David Park and Sharon Cather

At the Mogao Grottoes, a World Heritage site near Dunhuang city in Gansu Province, visitor numbers have been increasing inexorably since 1979 when the site was opened.  A national policy that identifies tourism as a pillar industry, concomitant with pressure from local authorities and businesses to encourage more tourism, threatens to lead to an unsustainable situation for management, an unsafe and uncomfortable experience for visitors, and irreparable damage to the fragile art of the caves for which the site is justly famous.  A study of their carrying capacity began in 2001 to determine both the impact of visitation on the painted caves and visitor numbers that are sustainable such that, once implemented, these threats would be addressed and resolved.  The study is a joint undertaking of the Getty Conservation Institute and the Dunhuang Academy, and is part of a larger collaboration to apply the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China at the site.  The seminar will discuss the research design and methodology used to identify critical pathways in determining sustainable visitation for 112 priority caves.

Martha Demas received her PhD. in Aegean Archaeology from the University of Cincinnati in 1984. After several years engaged in archaeological excavation, research and publication on Late Bronze Age sites in Cyprus, she returned to the U.S. to pursue an MA in Historic Preservation at Cornell University, specializing in conservation of the archaeological heritage. Dr. Demas joined the GCI in 1990, where she is currently a Senior Project Specialist. She has worked in China since 1997 and has been involved in archaeological site conservation projects in Central America, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. In 2010, Dr. Demas received the Friendship Award of the State Council of the PRC in acknowledgment of her work in China.

Neville Agnew joined the Getty Conservation Institute in 1988. He has a PhD in chemistry and worked in academia in South Africa and Australia prior to changing to heritage conservation in 1980. He has participated in many of the GCI’s research and international field projects and has led the initiative in China since 1989. Currently he leads the collaboration of the GCI with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities for the Valley of the Queens and Tutankhamen’s tomb projects. He has authored many publications in chemistry and conservation and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites, and for eight years was a board member of the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (a program of the U.S. National Park Service). Dr Agnew organized the conservation theme at the 5th World Archaeological Congress (WAC-5) and edited the subsequent publication. His association with conservation in China has resulted in a number of awards: The Friendship Award of the State Council in 2000; the International Scientific and Technological Cooperation Award of the PRC in 2005; and awards from Gansu Province and the Dunhuang Academy. Dr Agnew is currently Senior Principal Project Specialist in the Field Projects department of the GCI.



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