World Heritage UK has its first President – Welcome Chris Blandford

News

PRESS RELEASE – PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY

The Trustees of World Heritage UK are delighted to introduce Chris Blandford as its first President.   Chris has over 40 years of professional experience within the heritage sector, both as a company director and as a consultant, and is widely known and respected in the UK and overseas.

Formed in late 2015, World Heritage UK was set up to represent the collective views, opinions and aspirations of the UK’s 30 World Heritage Sites, and provide a platform for networking, advocacy and promotion. With nearly all of the UK’s mainland Sites now full members, some strong advocacy and two national conferences having been staged, this is a perfect time to move up a gear, and Chris is superbly placed to help the organisation do that.

Our World Heritage is under significant pressure, with Sites needing to cope with the fast-moving change of modern development, challenges from funding restrictions and climatic change. The UK is a world leader in heritage management and WH:UK provides essential support to those charged with the responsibility for our heritage management.

Chris’s passion for natural and cultural heritage has enabled him to be a significant contributor to the nomination, management planning, and masterplanning of over 25 World Heritage Sites and Candidates in both the UK and overseas.

Chris Blandford, new President of World Heritage UK

Chris Blandford, new President of World Heritage UK

He says: “We have 30 outstanding UK World Heritage Sites, 25 of which are on the mainland of our four home nations, ranging from the spectacular Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, and Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in Wales, through to the Neolithic Sites of Orkney in Scotland and Stonehenge & Avebury in England.  I am delighted and very privileged that the Board of Trustees have asked me to be President of World Heritage UK at this exciting time.  I look forward to championing the UK’s wonderful cultural and natural World Heritage through advocacy, networking and promotion.”

Dr Sam Rose, Chair of World Heritage UK goes on to say, ”this is great news for WH:UK and more importantly for our membership – those organisations who look after the country’s finest heritage. Chris’ business leadership experience, professional  profile together with his innovative and interdisciplinary way of working makes him well suited to assist in the challenges ahead and future development of WH:UK, and we look forward to him getting fully involved”.

More details about WH:UK can be found at worldheritageuk.org or follow us on twitter @worldheritageuk, or by contacting Chris Mahon, Development Director on chris.mahon@worldheritageuk.org

 

Edinburgh Management Plan consultation now open

consultation, Management Plan, News, Opportunities, Planning, Publications, UNESCO, World Heritage Sites

Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

Consultation is now open for feedback on the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management Plan (2017-2022).

During the summer last year, over 1000 people took part in a consultation and gave us their views on how they felt the World Heritage Site is being run. What people told us has shaped the draft Management Plan. The draft Plan sets out a number of actions which will be taken forward by the management partners (City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage).

The consultation will run until 5 June 2017. Please take a moment to share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions using our online survey. You can also download the survey and send comments to worldheritage@edinburgh.gov.uk

Thank you very much for your help,

Chloe

Chloe Porter |Planning Officer| Planning Initiatives|Planning and Transport|Place|

The City of Edinburgh Council |Waverley Court, Level G3, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8BG| Tel 0131 529 6235 | chloe.porter@edinburgh.gov.uk | http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk

World Heritage in Edinburgh

‘Communicating World Heritage’ conference, 7th-10th October at Ironbridge Gorge – Save-The-Date!

communications, Conference, Conference Ironbridge 2017, Events, Exhibition, News, training, Uncategorized, UNESCO, World Heritage Sites

The third annual conference of World Heritage UK, in association with the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, will take place from 9-10 October at the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, where practitioners will join to explore the many ways of communicating World Heritage to different audiences.

The event will be preceded (7-8 October) by a special international meeting to discuss research and global policy focusing on the communication of World Heritage values.

This joint event will take place at Ironbridge Gorge which, in 1986, became one of the first UK sites to be awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO.  The designation of the Ironbridge Gorge as a World Heritage Site recognised the area’s unique contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the impact of which was felt across the world. The surviving built and natural environment with its museums, monuments and artefacts, serve to remind us of this area’s unique contribution to the history and development of industrialised society.

The Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage is currently seeking paper proposals for panels from 7-8 October relating to the theme of Communicating World Heritage Values. To see the full call for papers please visit the website link below. Deadline: 15th May 2017.

Full conference programme to be announced. Tickets will go on sale in June. For more information, please visit the conference website HERE

Regarding the 7-8 October programme: J.G.Davies@bham.ac.uk

Regarding the 9-10 October programme: chris.mahon@worldheritageuk.org

#communicatingWH

Ironbridge- credit thy

Blenheim Palace wins Great China Welcome Award

Awards, Celebration, News, UNESCO, World Heritage Sites

Blenheim Palace has won national recognition for its positive approach to welcoming visitors from China.

Blenheim_PalaceThe Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site was presented with the GREAT China Welcome award at VisitEngland’s prestigious Awards for Excellence event held at the Hilton Waldorf Hotel in London on Monday.

The GREAT China welcome programme aims to make Britain the destination of choice for the rapidly-growing Chinese market.

Blenheim Palace’s Operations Director, Heather Carter said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won this award. Blenheim Palace is a living, changing experience with a wealth of events, themed tours and exhibitions throughout the year, and welcomes millions of visitors both from the UK and overseas. We were the first stately home to sign up for the GREAT China Charter and we are committed to developing our Chinese market.

“Blenheim is continually looking at innovative ways to improve and adapt the visitor experience to appeal to Chinese tourists and to underline the fact we are ‘China ready’,” she added.

Among the initiatives currently in place are Chinese guide books and guides, an audio guide and map on their website, a Mandarin speaking waitress in the Orangery and a menu in Mandarin. All staff also have the opportunity to enrol in Mandarin Chinese language classes free of charge.The team are about to produce audio recordings of some of the Palace and Gardens tours in a variety of languages; including Chinese.

Blenheim Palace was also among the first major UK heritage visitor attractions to accept UnionPay, the most widely used bank debit card throughout China and South East Asia.In addition to its on-site initiatives.  Blenheim Palace works with a number of Chinese travel groups, tour operators and trade missions in China.

At the centre of the programme is the GREAT China Welcome Charter which helps Chinese visitors to easily identify hotels, attractions, retailers and tour operators that are making themselves ‘China-ready’ by providing information in Mandarin or Cantonese and adapting their products for the Chinese market and culture.

Built in the early 18th century to celebrate Britain’s victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

Waters and Wonder at City of Bath World Heritage Day!

30th Anniversary, Arts, Bath 2017, Celebration, Events, News, Performance, Uncategorized, UNESCO, world heritage day, World Heritage Sites

Drawing the windows on Pulteney BridgeBath’s annual celebration of International World Heritage Day took place on Sunday 23 April in the sunshine at a beautifully blooming Parade Gardens.

The ‘Waters of Bath’ was the theme for the day and free activities exploring the history and use of Bath’s hot springs, canal network and River Avon were enjoyed by over 1400 visitors of all ages.

View of standsThe gardens came alive with the sound of music courtesy of Bath Spa Band and Bath City Jubilee Waits, who also accompanied the Widcombe Mummers in their colourful ‘St George and the Dragon’ play to mark St George’s Day.

Special guided walks are an ever popular feature of the annual event.  Various routes and subjects were covered, from the history and features of Parade Gardens to waterside tours.  These were led by the Mayor’s Honorary Guides, Cleveland Pools Trust and the National Trust.

This year, for the first time, World Heritage Day featured a programme of mini talks.  These focused on the history of Bath’s waters as well as updates from projects and initiatives across the World Heritage City including Bath Abbey Footprint, the Bathscape landscape partnership, Bath Medical Museum and the restoration of Cleveland Pools.

A record-breaking number of heritage displays and activity stands were present on the day offering opportunities to find out more about local canals, river safety, Bath’s best green views, Lottery-funded projects and heritage initiatives.  Location knowledge was tested with the ‘Great Spas of Europe’ picture quiz and flags were added to a giant world map to show the far-flung World Heritage Sites people had visited.  Visitors were treated to the Bath Record Office Roadshow and the chance to see real objects associated with the spa from the Roman Baths collection.  They even got to meet Paralympic champion swimmer Stephanie Millward and try on her medals at the Cleveland Pools stall!  It was wonderful to bring together so many (27!) of the City’s key heritage organisations, who enjoyed catching up with each other as well as enthusing visitors.

World Heritage Sites world mapsThere were lots of family-friendly activities to keep younger visitors entertained including craft activities, World Heritage dominoes, historic maps, colouring competitions and a bookmark stamp trail.  Special mention must be made of the amazing Pulteney Bridge model-building activities offered by Bath Preservation Trust. Robert Adam, the original Georgian architect, was wandering round the site all day and was most impressed with the efforts of budding designers and engineers.  He also posed for many selfies with his physician in tow in front of his world-famous bridge.

Robert Adam and his PhysicianAll in all the day was a great way to kick off the 30th anniversary celebrations of Bath becoming a World Heritage Site.  Watch this space for a series of special talks in the Autumn as we continue to celebrate this milestone.

Planning Inspector supports WHS setting

Bath 2017, Conservation, Management Plan, News, Planning, Uncategorized, UNESCO, Workshop, World Heritage Sites

BATH SKYLINE FROM ZION HILLThe green setting of Bath is a key attribute of Outstanding Universal Value

Following the World Heritage UK Technical Seminar on planning and World Heritage on 8th March, you may be interested in this recent (18 April 2017) appeal decision from Bath. In dismissing the appeal for 20 dwellings within the WHS, the inspector was convinced by the Council’s policy documents including the WHS Management Plan and the need to protect open hillsides as part of the OUV. We know from discussion in the technical seminar that comparable examples from different sites are considered useful and this example also provides some validation of Bath’s ‘Setting Study’ approach, another hot topic!  The decision can be found here. Please feel free to contact tony_crouch@bathnes.gov.uk for any further detail. 

‘Running the Business of World Heritage’ – WHUK Networking & General Meeting 4th and 5th July 2017

Business, Events, Exhibition, Network meetings, New Lanark networking meeting 2017, News, training, Uncategorized, UNESCO, Workshop, World Heritage Sites

punlm211008001_o1 CropFollowing on from the success of last year’s World Heritage UK Networking Meeting at the Giant’s Causeway WHS, this year we move to Scotland and the unique and successful New Lanark WHS where we plan to share our experiences on ‘running the business of World Heritage’. So, a commercial theme this year and this is appropriate as the operation at New Lanark is an exemplar. There will be opportunities to learn from each other as we hear from world heritage colleagues on their experiences of business plans and strategies, innovative enterprises and products, hospitality and customer satisfaction and the interpretation of the offer that each World Heritage Site provides to sustain it as a viable and sustainable business. The event will also include a World Heritage UK General Meeting to meet the governance requirements of the charity.

The meeting will take place in the Bonnington Linn Conference Room at the New Lanark Mill Hotel on the 4th and 5th July where a limited amount of accommodation has been reserved for delegates. Booking is urgently required to secure any of the following: 5 bedrooms reserved in the New Lanark Mill Hotel (these are Bed and Breakfast) @£89.00 per night based on two sharing or @£65.00 per night for single occupancy.

17 bedrooms in the Wee Row Hostel (bedroom only but breakfast available separately) @£55.00 based on 2 sharing or £40.00 for single occupancy.

Delegates wishing to book this accommodation MUST either phone 01555 667200 or e-mail hotel @newlanark.org and reference ‘Masters allocation’ for their booking to be made at these rates. Bookings cannot be made online. See http://www.newlanarkhotel.co.uk/ or call 01555 667200 for more details.

The Eventbrite webpage for registration to this event is ready for your sign up HERE

The draft programme is in preparation but so far includes:

  • speakers and presentations from the UK’s World Heritage Sites
  • the World Heritage UK General Meeting
  • an evening reception with New Lanark WHS staff and Partnership Board, with a presentation by the New Lanark Chief Executive on access and new development
  • a 3-course networking dinner (optional) @£23.95
  • 5 specialised tours of the WHS – on architecture, power, textiles, social history and the general story of New Lanark
World Heritage Day

World Heritage Day 2017 showcases the UK’s ’Wonders of the World’ in a global day of celebration

News

Press release April 11th 2017: World Heritage Day 2017 showcases the UK’s ’Wonders of the World’ in a global day of celebration

World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind and protecting and preserving these amazing places demands the collective efforts of all of us.  World Heritage Day, on the 18th of April, offers an opportunity to raise people’s awareness about the diversity of cultural and natural heritage we have in the UK and across the world, and the efforts that are required to look after it. Put simply, it is an opportunity to shout about how fantastic our World Heritage is, and you can find out more at https://worldheritageuk.org/whday17/

April 18th is an ‘official’ international celebration day first proposed by ICOMOS, the International Council for Monuments and Sites and then approved by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (the part of the UN that manages World Heritage) – in 1983. Each year has a theme, and this year’s theme is sustainable tourism, but many Sites simply choose to use the day to raise awareness.

A number of UK World Heritage Sites are celebrating the day this year with a programme of events, including the City of Bath, Durham Cathedral, Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, Ironbridge Gorge, Saltaire, Maritime Greenwich, and all of the six Scottish World Heritage Sites. Activities include diverting rivers, creating St Kilda in Minecraft, guided walks, illuminations, craft activities, ceramics workshops, games, short talks and even yarnbombing!

World Heritage UK, the national charity that represents the UK’s 30 World Heritage Sites is collating this information on its website at https://worldheritageuk.org/whday17/ so make this your first point of call for your guide to the day. We are also preparing a Twitter Thunderclap and will have a Twitter World Heritage hour in the afternoon on the 18th, so keep watching the hashtag #WHDay2017 and sign up to our twitter feed at @worldheritageuk to see what happens!

Dr Sam Rose, Chair of World Heritage UK, says “We have 30 outstanding UK World Heritage Sites, 25 of which are on the mainland of our four home nations, ranging from the spectacular Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Wales, through to the Palace of Westminster and the Neolithic Sites of Orkney. Even if your local World Heritage Site doesn’t have an event on the 18th April, please pay it a visit and be amazed.” The full list of UK World Heritage Sites can be seen at https://worldheritageuk.org/about/ourworldheritagesites/

World Heritage Day Thunderclap update: if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, we still need your help!

News

It’s World Heritage Day next week (!) and to spread the word we have set up a thunderclap – a social media event which shares the same message across numerous Twitter, Facebook and Tumbler accounts simultaneously. It makes it far more likely that the hashtag will trend, directing traffic to all of the accounts posting World Heritage Day related information. The message we are using is ‘Today is

World Heritage Day! Join us in celebrating the UK’s 30 World Heritage Sites using #WHDay2017“.

Thank you so much to everyone who has signed up so far – we’re nearly there and the total reach is over 538,000, which is amazing!! but we still need some more supporters to make it happen (we need a minimum of 100 for it to start). If you haven’t yet signed up you can do so using this link: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/54955-world-heritage-day-2017. If you have done already we would still love it if you can continue to spread the word to your team’s/volunteers/communities. Remember that you can sign up on more than one platform – so if you have already supported with twitter you can also support with Facebook and Tumbler. They all count!

 

Many thanks

Coralie – World Heritage UK Official Twitterer…

 

World Heritage UK in China

News, World Heritage Sites

In March 2017, WH:UK Vice-Chair Tony Crouch was invited on a ‘high-level’ British Council delegation to China. Here is his report.

The rapid urbanisation of China and the sheer size of the country marks it as one of the most fascinating societies in the world today. In the past 40 years, the number of people who have migrated from the Chinese countryside to cities is twice the population of the USA. Global recognition of China’s cultural heritage has seen a similar growth and after ratifying the World Heritage Convention in late 1985, China now has 50 inscribed sites and is hot on the heels of world leader Italy with 51.

The purpose of our week-long visit was to encourage cultural heritage collaboration between the UK and China. This was inspired by China’s 13th Five Year Plan which includes cultural heritage protection as a priority and at the same time in the UK the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are encouraging the heritage sector to explore international opportunities to showcase our world class heritage protection expertise. My colleagues on the delegation were Alexandra Warr (Senior Advisor, Historic England), Debbie Dance (Director, Oxford Preservation Trust), Alison Richmond (Chief Executive, Institute of Conservation) and Humphrey Welfare (Chairman, Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site Partnership Board and Trustee of the Churches Conservation Trust). We were expertly organised by the super-efficient Katherine Peringer from the British Council.

It’s a twelve hour flight from London to Beijing. Having taken-off at 4:30pm, by midnight UK time the eastern sunrise was already appearing through the aeroplane windows, so we effectively skipped a night and confused the body–clock. Landing in Beijing, the long, cold, dry winter had turned any grass a parched sandy-brown colour and cars and building windows were covered in a film of dust reminiscent of high-pressure English summer weather conditions. The city traffic was heavy and the air was thick.

Our first visit was to the Forbidden City, the imperial palace off Tiananmen Square, in use from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1420-1912). 16 million annual visitors now make this the world’s most visited museum. (The British Museum, ranked 3rd, has 6.8m). These visitor numbers for the Forbidden City have jumped from 7.5m in 2015 and demonstrate the astronomical rise in Chinese domestic tourism. We visited at the end of the day and had the privilege to take crowd free photographs, but if there is one area where our Chinese colleagues undoubtedly have greater experience it is in dealing with huge visitor numbers. Access to all areas in the Forbidden City seems good, so it will be an on-going challenge for managers to prevent erosion of surfaces and other issues associated with such immense footfall.

The Forbidden City, Beijing. A rare tourist free photo of what is now the most visited museum in the world.

The following day, our second visit was a 1 hour 20 minute drive north-west out of the city to the Great Wall at Badaling Pass. This is the most popular section of the 13,170.69 mile (21,196.18 km) long wall to visit. The wall was constructed over a 2,000 year period, with the Badaling section constructed circa 1505 (Ming dynasty).   The wall divided the Chinese farmers to the south from the raiding nomadic Mongols of the north. The invention of firearms later decisively tipped the balance in favour of the defending Chinese.

We met the director of the Badaling Wall in a room which had previously received over 500 state leaders. Since this 3km section of wall was opened to the public in 1958, a 30 year conservation and restoration period ensued, funded by central and local government. Over 200 million people have since visited this section and un-surprisingly conservation and administration are now wholly supported by admission fees (40 RMB = £4.69 per adult). Pre-1990’s 30% of visitors were from overseas, but that number has since fallen to 10% with overall numbers rocketing to 8 million a year now. As of 3 years ago, ticketing measures cap maximum numbers on the 10-20 days per year when numbers can reach 100,000 per day. Modern facilities here have been sensitively located, with the large car and coach parks discreetly positioned. There are gift shops and cafes, but fewer than expected as under Chinese government regulations the museums are not permitted to financially profit from these. Visitors are encouraged to these managed sections, with ‘wild’ stretches of the wall closed to the public and trespass is illegal because of the safety risks to visitor and the uncontrolled impact upon the monument.

13m RMB has recently been invested in a new ‘monitoring centre’ which we were shown. This includes a scale model of the wall and a bank of monitors from the 296 cameras which cover the 3km section. Cameras are prevalent in China but in all the conversations I have had with Chinese nationals nobody has expressed this as a problem and they focus on the safety of such surveillance. This was the first of several occasions where we saw a very ‘hi-tech’ approach to monitoring of cultural monuments.

The restored wall at Badaling offers iconic views and is in a good condition. Perhaps of more interest to us as conservation professionals was a visit to an unrestored section, showing a rammed earth bank with a derelict brick lining to it, overgrown by grass. Humphry (as an archaeologist and Hadrian’s Wall expert) was in his element here, spotting construction similarities with the Roman defences.

The iconic view of the Great Wall of China at Badaling Pass

The less well-known image of the wall in a pre-restored state, close to Badaling.

Tuesday was our ‘conference’ day at Peking University. The university has a delightfully landscaped campus of lakes and trees, providing an oasis of calm in the big city with the peace shattered only by the boisterous Azure-winged Magpies. The UK and Chinese experts ran through a series of presentations followed by an in-depth question and answer session. In academic terms, there seemed little to separate the conservation philosophies of the two countries. The archaeologists found much common ground over areas such as re-burying artefacts to aid their preservation. The conservators also found few differences, with the Chinese particularly strong in applying new technology. If there was one thing missing it was discussion over conservation of historic urban areas. I suspect that conservation of ‘ordinary’ historic domestic housing has been a casualty of mass urbanisation, but with a need to house a population of 1.386 billion people China will inevitably have had to make practical choices.

There were also unexpected similarities between our approaches; with for example the use of volunteers in Chinese heritage protection demonstrated as was an increasing level of community involvement. One action which the British Council, Historic England and WH:UK took away was to produce a quick guide to the conservation bodies in the UK and China. The range of government departments and ‘NGO’s’ in the respective countries can be bewildering and mapping these out would be useful. Other messages (opportunities?) of relevance to WH:UK were that China appears to have a conservation skill shortage in areas such as intangible heritage and a real desire to collaborate in training on aspects such as industrial heritage.

On Tuesday evening we attended a reception at the British Embassy in Beijing. It was my first visit inside an overseas embassy and a fascinating insight into how things work. We were warmly welcomed by the Ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward, who is the first female UK ambassador to China. Amongst the guests present was British Museum Director, Dr Hartwig Fischer, in Beijing to open the touring ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ exhibition.

On Wednesday we left Beijing to fly (2:15 hours) south-west to the city of Xi’an, in Shaanxi province. This province was the home of many emperors and is rich in cultural relics. Xi’an is again a big city housing 8.76 million and the journey from the airport to the centre passed by many suburbs clustered with new residential tower blocks. Our centrally located hotel was also high-rise, with our rooms on the 24th floor being nowhere near the top.

Modern urban China. A view over central Xi’an, showing the high density urban planning and the ubiquitous residential tower blocks.

East of Xi’an (a 40 minute drive) is the site of the Terracotta Warriors (inscribed in 1987 under the less memorable title ‘Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor ‘). The first remains were found by farmers digging a well in the early 1970’s on non-descript grassland and what they found turned out to be one of the most outstanding archaeological discoveries of the century. Nearly 8,000 full scale models of an army are located in a series of pits, aligned in authentic battle formation and facing east to protect the Emperor’s tomb from attack from that direction. The figures include archers, horses and infantrymen and show a remarkable level of individual detail. They were contained in a pit, covered over with a wooden beamed roof, and then buried. The roof has since collapsed but it served well to protect the archaeology.

The warriors are displayed in situ on a 2km square site covered by several vast aircraft hangar type buildings. I didn’t know what to expect but the initial entry into the building and the sheer size of the collection spread before you is truly breath-taking. There are also many museum cases showing the more intricate pieces and the story of the excavations, so the level of interpretation is high. The income from admission fees has enabled expansion of the site and this is an attraction where the visitor can easily spend half a day or more. The UNESCO symbol is proudly and prominently incorporated into the building in a very innovative way (see the photo at the start of this report).

The warriors are a small part of a much larger network of 190 funerary monuments and objects from these are housed in the Shaanxi Museum. There are two outstanding ‘must see’ collections here. The first is a buried hoard, consisting of a pair of urns, each containing jewellery, coin and decorative items of exquisite craftsmanship. What is of equal interest to the contents is the mystery surrounding the hoard. Hoards are usually buried hurriedly at times of conflict, but here each urn was so carefully packed that curators struggled to re-pack them and the inside of the lids carry a detailed inventory of the contents. The burial was close to the imperial palace and one of the 3 main suspects is the Emperor’s treasurer who unsuccessfully tried to flee the palace during a revolt, was prevented from doing so, unwisely joined the revolt and was executed once the Emperor regained power. Sometime in the middle of this did he find time for some careful packing and digging?

The Agate Cup from the hoard, in the shape of an Ox with a gold mounted mouth.

The second outstanding collection is of wall paintings from the numerous surrounding imperial tombs. Once the underground tombs are opened the process of decay can be rapid and many paintings have been carefully removed (together with the top layer of plaster) and conserved. These provide a remarkable insight into the everyday life of the royal court. They show a highly sophisticated multi-cultural society and differ from western funerary art in that they do not portray death or religious messages connected with it. Instead they show smiling figures happily engaged in every day past-times and a range of wild creatures including the ever-present dragons. Every other wild creature depicted is known to us today apart from the dragon. Why has this mythical creature found such a stronghold in folklore? Was there ever such a creature?!

The Shaanxi cultural heritage and Great Wall) provide much for the Chinese people to take national pride in. In the UK we view much of our ancient history, such as the Roman period, as belonging to that of another culture or invading force. In China there seems to be a more direct ancestral connection between past and present generations, and the affirmation that China has always been a great nation with a strong cultural identity.

We visited the laboratories of the Shaanxi Museum and saw the painstaking conservation work to save the wall paintings. One painting takes a team of four conservators six months to complete. Of credit to the curators (and government) is a decision not to open the Emperor’s tombs themselves. These are believed to contain the most valuable remains including fabrics and possibly parchments, but they are being left sealed until such time as conservation technology advances and provides better preservation methods.

In Xi’an we took part in a second conference and gave (and listened to) our same presentations again. As before there were multiple television cameras present and we had heard that our visit was widely covered on media and social media. Chinese society has widely embraced the smartphone and the whole country appears to communicate (and increasingly pay for goods) through the ‘WeChat’ app!

On Friday, our final (and very different) offer was provided by the Xi’an Daming National Heritage Park. This is, as the name suggests, a city park with a heritage theme. From the air it looks like New York’s Central Park, a vast 3.5 square km open rectangular area surrounded by high rise buildings. It was the site of a former Tang Dynasty imperial palace for 220 years and is one of 33 inscribed sites forming the Spice Road serial World Heritage inscription. None of the archaeology appears to be visible and a huge gate house has been reconstructed, so in this respect the levels of integrity and authenticity are low for an inscribed World Heritage Site. To compensate for this, a wide range of interpretation methods have been employed including an Imax cinema, an open-air scale ‘model-village’ of the site, museum collections, a replica gate house and a World Heritage Centre showing other sites. There is obviously some sensitivity about the clearance of the city settlement that took place to create the park, when a significant number of people were re-housed. The on-site exhibitions contain displays of the shanty-town conditions in which the residents previously lived as part of the justification for the approach.

Daming National Heritage Park must rank as one of the more unusual World Heritage Sites on the list, but as part of the Silk Road and the necessity to tell the whole story of that route it makes sense and can be seen as an essential component of the series.

Even with a packed programme and privileged access, a week in China can of course only scratch the surface. We heard some fascinating presentations, with topics including the challenge of preserving the stunning ethnic rural villages in the face of mass rural de-population. There is so much to be done here and it would appear that professional cooperation between the UK and China may well be a growth industry. Having been schooled in the UK and growing up with world maps showing the UK at the world’s centre, a trip here is an eye-opening education that the East is (an historically has always been) a true world super-power.

My thanks go to the British Council (Karen and Kaci) for their superb organisation and to my colleagues for their excellent company. There will be follow-up work to come, of which this report is a small part. If any WH:UK members wish to contact me to discuss any UK/China opportunities I would be more than happy to discuss this.

Tony_crouch@bathnes.gov.uk