Conservation of DunHuang Manuscript and Scrolls

Conservation of DunHuang Manuscript and Scrolls

On Thursday 11 February 2016, Ming-Ai held its first training workshop of the British Chinese Armed Forces Heritage project — Conservation of the DunHuang Manuscript and Scrolls at the Center for Conservation at the British Library. Led by senior paper conservator Wong Wingyui who has 40 years’ in paper conservatory, specialising in Chinese paintings. He introduced the history of the collection to the audience, explaining the work processes and various methods and materials used to strengthen and repair the manuscripts. This was a unique opportunity for Ming-Ai’s staff and volunteers to visit the private workspace of the Center for conservation at the British Library, to closely look at the original copy and learn the conservation of the DunHuang manuscript and scrolls, as well as meeting with the experts in the field.

Conservation of the Dunhuang Collection: As the manuscript ages they become unstable, causing the item to distort and transferring acidity to the paper. The conservation of the Dunghuang scrolls is very challenging and time-consuming. Various materials are used for repairing, silk gauze is pasted on both sides with animal glue, sometimes there are several layers on top of each other, heavy and thick paper is applied to reinforce weak areas, such as edges, tears and missing areas. Then conservators had to remove these materials by working on a section at a time, using hot water to reactivate the animal glue, carefully pulling the gauze away from the paper with tweezers, scraping the residual animal glue with a spatula while it was damp. During this stage, old repairs are also removed as they easily peeled away from the original material. After all treatments, the scroll is lightly pressed for a week to flatten and distortions. Finally it is rolled onto an archival quality core support and ready to be digitised and handled.