This past October, Xuemao Wang, dean and university librarian, was invited by the Dunhuang Research Academy of China to participate in a two-day International Dunhuang Consultative Committee meeting sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to consult on the Digital Dunhuang project. The consultative committee included individuals from such institutions as UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, Microsoft Research Asia, The University of Hong Kong Libraries, the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Jawaharlal Nehru University Library, the National Museum in New Delhi, the Korea Institute of Dunhuang, National Taiwan University, Zhejiang University, Wuhan University, and the University of Science and Technology of China, among other institutions. Members of the Consultative Committee received a three-year appointment from the director of the academy, Mr. Wang Yuanlong.
The objective of the two-day meeting was to review Digital Dunhuang’s current infrastructures, policies, and challenges, particularly in the three key areas of: digital asset management, digital resource integration, and digital preservation. The committee was charged by the director to prepare a set of recommendations for future activities in each of the three areas. At the end of the two-day, intensive meeting, the international consultative committee presented a draft set of recommendations to the academy.
The Dunhuang Caves, the best-known of which are the Mogao Caves, comprise some 492 temples and contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning a period of 1,000 years. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the caves are one of the most comprehensive cultural heritage museums in existence. The Dunhuang Research Academy has been devoted to the protection of the Dunhuang Mogao Caves since its founding in 1944. Currently, the Academy is undertaking a massive endeavor known as Digital Dunhuang whose ambitious goals include, eventually, digitizing all 492 caves’ resources—including 3-D imaging of murals, sculptures and the caves themselves—as well as managing the resulting digital resources with long-term digital preservation strategies.
Another Dunhuang project, the International Dunhuang Project is a consortium of libraries and museums that are linking their collections of digitized Dunhuang manuscripts and making them available on the Internet.
This was Dean Wang’s first visit Dunhuang, although he remembers learning about it in his Chinese high school history class. “I was tremendously impressed by its historical and artistic richness and the beauty of the mural paintings, Buddhism manuscripts and massive cave structures,” said Dean Wang. “Dunhuang Research Academy’s vision and work on digitizing the cave’s entire historical and cultural objects for both access and preservation using cutting edge digital technologies is an important and impressive endeavor.”