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Martha Demas, The Mogao Grottoes: Taking the Long View of Cultural Heritage

Thu, Apr 13, 2017    6:30pm

The Mogao Grottoes - Taking the Long View of Cultural Heritage


Martha Demas, the Getty Conservation Institute

With a response by Erica Avrami.

The World Heritage site of the Mogao Grottoes is China’s preeminent ancient Buddhist site on the Silk Road, comprising nearly 500 cave temples (4th and the 14th centuries) with wall paintings and sculpture. The Getty Conservation Institute has been working with the Dunhuang Academy since 1989 on strategies to conserve and manage the site, using as guidelines the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China developed at the national level. This multifaceted project, now in its twenty-eighth year of partnership exemplifies many of the challenges and opportunities that have animated cultural heritage preservation in China in the last three decades, but need also be seen through the historical perspective of Mogao’s revival and re-emergence as cultural heritage beginning in 1900.


Martha Demas received her PhD in Aegean Archaeology and after several years engaged in archaeological excavation, research and publication in Cyprus, she pursued an M.A. in Historic Preservation, specializing in conservation of the archaeological heritage. She joined the Getty Conservation Institute in 1990 and currently holds the position of senior project specialist. She has participated in many of the Institute’s international field projects and in developing methodologies, guidelines, and training courses, with a principal focus on conservation and management of archaeological sites. Since 1996 she has been most actively involved with the Institute’s projects in China, collaborating in the development of national guidelines for the conservation and management of cultural heritage sites – formally known as the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China – and in their application to a broad spectrum of conservation activities at the World Heritage sites of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang and the Qing Dynasty Mountain Resort in Chengde.