Day three of the workshop

Monday 28 September 2009 – Mogao, Gansu, Western China

Dunhuang conservation plan and carrying capacity study – amazing work

Li Ping – Tourism Liaison & Reservation Manager – Visitor Reception Department, Dunhuang Academy

  • Bookings – in 2005 the Academy opened an office in Dunhuang. This was supported by travel agents and was later shifted to an internet system
  • Liaison and education outreach to local tour booking agents
  • 60 agents and 120 guides registered to use the reservations system
  • Eight categories of guides, from general to expert – to meet varying visitor needs. Conservators can be booked to meet with visitors
  • The booking system considers transportation schedules
  • Staff participate in promotional activities in Dunhuang, to highlight conservation
  • Staff inform visitors about required standards of behaviour and provide a guide book
  • Independent travellers are increasingly prevalent
  • Online information – more being made available – including bookings and payment
  • Tours for independent travellers are scheduled separately from groups
  • Monitoring of visitors – Surveys and observations of visitors are used. Research included guides (narrators) observing visitors in the Library Cave, as well as a survey of travel agents
  • Climate monitoring system in caves
  • Guides in Dunhuang on public holidays hand out information on heritage and conservation, also in schools. They have special open days for local students and workers.
  • Information written by local guides has been published
  • Need for information by guides and experts
  • Special visit programs operate at times to cope with peak demand, for example on national holidays such as ‘golden week’
  • Exhibition hall and other displays being utilised to temper visitor flows
  • Headsets used to reduce noise levels and improve experience in caves
  • Narrators available in Mandarin and 6 foreign languages

LUO Huaqing – Visitor Centre and Interpretation Planning, Dunhuang Academy

  • At peak times, there can be 6-7000 visitors per day
  • 550 000 per year and growing
  • A new visitor centre is to be built on the highway 15km from Grottoes, close to airport and railway station
  • Capacity up to 6,000pax per day

Components of new tour

1) Visitor Centre

  • Grand Entrance Hall
  • Preview exhibition area
  • Waiting area for cinemas (2 documentary films, 1 on cultural values and heritage (22 mins) and 1 on cave art (20 mins))

2) Getting to the caves

  • Two routes
  • ‘Gobi Vista’ bus route
  • ‘Sacred Way’ pass through northern cave areas

3) Cave visit

  • Library cave exhibition
  • Visit to caves

4) Mogao Grottoes Eco Humanity Walkway

  • Tree lined walk – Oasis
  • Art Gallery
  • Tea House
  • Silk Road Culture Art Exhibition
  • Contemporary artworks to contrast the caves

5) Exhibition Centre – three theme areas

  • Content explanation & discovery
  • Social education
  • Synthesis of new media and traditional exhibition methods
  • Interactive media and HD displays

6) Tour conclusion

  • Bus trip back to Visitor Centre, shops and food outlets

Getty Conservation Institute Carrying Capacity Study –  Neville Agnew, Martha Demas, Shin Maekawa

Deliquesence value – the rate at which salts absorb moisture from the air.

  • 62% is the point at which deterioration starts


  • Tour Group Size 25pax
  • Area 2pax per square meter
  • Cave size 13m2 is the smallest cave that can be opened
  • CO2 1500 parts per million is the maximum tolerated
  • Duration of visit 5 minutes
  • ACH – Air Change capacity


Visitor Management Tools – Chris Billings

  • Modelling the visitor experience

We again visited some of the caves, including several where painstaking conservation work was currently being done. Any visitor who might think it OK to touch the walls would just need to see the minutely detailed work being done to be cured. We also visited cave 85 where lighting techniques were being trialled. I didn’t mind the white light of the LED system, which also gives off very little heat, but apparently opinion was moving towards a warmer colour temperature, more in keeping with the lamp- or candlelight which travellers on the Silk Road would have originally viewed the caves.

Neil Silberman – effective Interpretation

  • Interpretation as monologue vs interpretation as ongoing experience

Maria’s PAHSMA Presentation

During the evening, not wanting to avail our selves of buffet dinner at the hotel again, Maria and I set off for dinner on our own in the night market. Later I took her for a walk down to the local market, behind the big new clothing mall.

Back at the Hotel gift shop, I persuaded Maria to buy a silk jacket, which she managed to haggle down to a very good price.

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