A panel on the identity of cultural heritage and its conservation

Besides the keynotes, an immersive panel also took place during the first day of the Symposium. It was on the topic of cultural heritage and involved three prominent specialists, whose discussion was moderated by the 2016 Yenching Scholar Rosie Levine. The panel featured three presentations and a discussion session with questions coming from the moderator and the audience.

The first panelist to speak was Maria Mertzani from Greece. She is the Head of Directorate of Conservation of Ancient and Modern Monuments, which is under the administration of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. Mertzani mainly spoke about the projects of her Directorate and the ways they use innovation to make the conservation work easier. The main aim of using the latest technology, such as installing sensors for temperature and humidity tracking, using CT scanning and 3D scanning in excavations, is to “know more while doing less”. This allows the Directorate to be more efficient in preservation work and also to predict, when the work may intensify, as a result of environment changes or natural disasters.

The second presentation was given by Li Kuanghan, the Director of the Global Heritage Fund’s China Heritage Program. She introduced two key preservation and conservation projects in China. The first is the Pingyao City in Shanxi Province. Although the whole city is considered to be a heritage site, only 10-20% of the place is up-kept and preserved. This project aimed to connect the wishes of locals with the financial resources of the local administration to slowly reconstruct the old pavilions. The second project was based in Dali Dong Village in Guizhou Province. This place is a Dong minority settlement, completely surrounded by mountains. Once again, the project connected the resources of the higher administration and the motivation of the locals to reconstruct the village, while keeping its historical and aesthetic value intact.

Lastly, the representative of Travel in Geography Wang Hongguang gave an introduction to a recent project “City as Museum”. She talked about ways the daily surroundings can be interpreted as an artistic setting. Even the Peking University campus is full of historic buildings and people’s memories about the earlier years, even the natural spots are full of cultural and historical value.  The main idea of the project is to contact various people around Beijing, especially the older inhabitants of the hutong area, and let them share their reminiscences of the old days and buildings that stood before they were turned into touristic attractions or got demolished completely.

The discussion following the presentations mainly centered around the topic of identity of cultural heritage and the perception towards it. While at one point the buildings might not have been viewed as significant historically, or the heritage of a certain group’s culture has not been perceived as important, in several years the same places can become the main topics on the legislative level.