International Dunhuang Project

Conservation: Projects

page mounted: 2/1/08 page last updated: 25/3/08


IDP seeks to initiate and develop cooperation with cultural institutions and other stakeholders in the conservation sphere through regular conferences, joint research programmes and publications. IDP members meet at regular conferences to present the results of recent conservation procedures and projects. Details of the conferences, resulting publications, other publications and past and present research projects are given here.


Inaugural Conference: October 1993, organised by the British Library and held at the British Library and Sussex University, UK.

See IDP News 1 for a brief report. The papers were published as Dunhuang and Turfan: Contents and Conservation of Ancient Documents from Central Asia as the first in the series British Library Studies in Conservation Science, edited by Susan Whitfield and Frances Wood (London: The British Library 1997).

Second IDP Conservation Conference: 7th-9th February1996, organised by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and held at the BnF and Les Fontaines, Chantilly Paris.

See IDP News 5 for a brief report.. The papers were published as Conservation des manuscrits de Dunhuang et d'Asie centrale, edited by Monique Cohen (Paris: BnF 1998).

Forgeries of Dunhuang Manuscripts in the Early Twentieth Century, 30th June – 2nd July 1997, organized by IDP and held at the British Library.

See IDP News 8/9 for a brief report. The papers were published as Dunhuang Manuscript Forgeries, edited by Susan Whitfield (London: The British Library ).

Third IDP Conservation Conference, 13th-16th May 1998, organised by Orientabteilung, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, and Museum für Indische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

See IDP News 11 for a brief report. The papers were not published.

Fourth IDP Conservation Conference, 7th-12th September 1999, organised by and held at the Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg Branch, St. Petersburg.

See IDP News 14 for a brief report. A selection of papers was published in Manuscripta Orientalia.

Fifth IDP Conservation Conference, 17th-19th October 2002, organised by and held at the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities and the National Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm. Supported by the Sven Hedin Foundation of the Royal Academy of Sciences.

See IDP News 22/23 for a brief report. The papers were not published.

One Day IDP Conference, 13th September 2003, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan held as part of 'Cultures of the Silk Road and Modern Science Conference in commemoration of the Otani Mission to Central Asia'.

The papers were published in the volume Scientific Analysis, Conservation and Digitisation of Central Asian Cultural Properties, edited by Enami Kazuyuki and Okada Yoshihiko, (Kyoto: Ryukoku University 2005).

Sixth IDP Conservation Conference, 22nd-25th April 2005,organised by the National Library of China (NLC) and held at the NLC and the Xiangshan Hotel, Beijing.

See IDP News 29 for a brief report. The papers were published in a bilingual edition by the NLC as Tradition and Innovation: Proceedings of the Sixth IDP Conservation Conference, edited by Lin Shitian and Alastair Morrison (Beijing: NLC 2007).

Seventh IDP Conservation Conference, 21-23 May 2007, organised by IDP and held at The British Library and the Courtauld Institute, London.

See IDP News 30 for a brief report. A selection of papers was published in IDP News, issues 30 onwards.

Research Projects

A Chronology of Tibetan Books Structures

Research being carried out by Agnieszka Helman-Wazny. This work is ongoing and will eventually culminate in the award of a PhD thesis. Interim results will be published on IDP's web pages. Preliminary details are given in IDP News 29.

Macro- and Microscopic Paper Analysis

Ongoing research being directed by IDP and carried out by IDP and other paper researchers, including Anna-Grethe Rischel, formerly of The National Museum of Denmark, and Agnieska Helman-Wazny. Anna-Grethe Rischel has also carried out comparative analysis on paper from the Sven Hedin collection in Stockholm and the Stein Collection in London, and on western papers, and she has presented her findings at several IDP conferences. Agnieska held a workshop on fibre analysis with the help of Anna-Grethe during the Seventh IDP Conservation Conference.

Images and results from this research are being attached to the manuscript records on the IDP database and added as papers to IDP conservation resources.

Scientific Paper Analysis

Ongoing research carried out by Professor Enami, Kohno and others from Ryukoku University, Japan, on papers from the Otani and Stein collections using various methods including neutron activation analysis (NAA) and particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE).

The results are being attached to the manuscript's records on the IDP database and added as papers to IDP conservation resources.

Raman Spectral Analysis of Pigments and Inks

Ongoing research being carried out by University College London (UCL) on British Library material, to use non-destructive methods of investigation to study pigments and inks. Several of the Dunhuang manuscripts have been examined, including the illustrated Sutra of the Ten Kings (Or.8210/S.3961).

The results are being attahced to the manuscripts records on the IDP database and added as papers to IDP conservation resources.

A Study in the Manufacture of Ancient Ink

A Master Degree research project carried out by Sylvia (Xuhua) Zhan from Camberwell College of Art, London, in cooperation with IDP. Preliiminary findings were presented at the Seventh IDP Conservation Conference in May 2007 and published in IDP News 30.

Codicology and Palaeography of Chinese and Tibetan Manuscripts from Dunhuang

An important part of this IDP-led research project involves collating physical data about the manuscripts, including measurements, details of laid and chain lines, and fibre analysis. Full details are given on the IDP Research page.

Identifying Forgeries

This is an ongoing project, coordinated by Susan Whitfield, to use data on the manuscripts collating in other projects to test various hypotheses about the existence of forgeries among the Dunhuang manuscripts. The conference on forgeries (see above) marked an early stage in this project and will be followed up by another seminar or conference to discuss the findings, along with publications and an IDP web page.The introduction to the volume of papers from the conference is available to view or download on IDP.

Measurement of True pH of Ancient Chinese Papers

PhD Research carried out by Alan Kennedy at the Queen’s University of Belfast, under supervision of Professor K. S. Seddon. Initial results were presented at the Second IDP Conservation Conference in 1996 and published as a PhD in 1999. The research resulted in a prototype of a pH probe which could provide a very accurate measurement of the acidity of dry paper.

Berberine and Huangbo: Ancient Colorants and Dyes

Research carried out by Peter J Gibbs and Professor Kenneth R. Seddon at Sussex University then at The Queen’s University of Belfast. The results were published in The British Library Studies in Conservation Science: 2 (1998). For a summary of this work see IDP News 3. An extension of this project was carried out to identify the dyes used on a selection of manuscripts which had been identified as possible forgeries (see forgeries above).