Text by Huang Liwei
Visitors to the National Museum of China (NMC) seldom realize the magnitude of the endeavors that contributed to the meticulous displays. After they were first brought to light by archeologists, ancient artifacts underwent complicated, systematic restoration procedures. As the NMC celebrates its 100th birthday, China Pictorial documented the process of relic restoration at the Preservation Center for Cultural Relics (PCCR) in Beijing’s Fengtai District.
Preservation and Restoration
The Center’s 5-story building looks like any other from the outside: a sharp contrast to the mysterious cultural relics within. Built in 2006, it served as temporary storage for the NMC collection during the museum’s expansion. Now, it serves as a center for restoring and preserving cultural relics with modern technology.
Its former incarnation, founded in 1952, was known as the Studio on Cultural Relic Restoration, from which the organization’s present-day four sections derive: Relic Preservation Lab, Article Restoration, Calligraphy and Painting Restoration, and Document Restoration. Six decades of painstaking efforts have turned the Center into a world-class institute specializing in cultural relic preservation, restoration, scientific research, international exchange, and education. Today, it leads the world in metal relic preservation, repair replication, environmental monitoring and surveillance, and document duplication.
However, time and storage limitations have caused deterioration of some relics: metal rusted, pottery was broken, wooden articles were sun-cracked, and silk rotted - losing their original appearances and even placing survival in danger. Preservation is undoubtedly necessary to prolong their lives. With the help of modern science and technology, relics are now more easily diagnosed for optimum preservation or restoration treatment.
“Our primary focus is ‘treating the disease’ to prevent future damage,” explains Pan Lu, director of the Center. Over the last few years, the Center has treated numerous “patients” from all over the country, including national treasures.