Arising out of the GCI's long-term involvement in China, the first in a series of workshops to develop a set of principles for conservation and management of cultural sites was held in Australia February 1-16, 1998. The project is a collaboration between the GCI, the Australian Heritage Commission, and the National Administration for Cultural Heritage (NACH) in China. The aim of the workshop, which was preceded by extensive discussions in Australia and China in October 1997, was to further clarify the principles of heritage conservation promulgated in the Burra Charter of ICOMOS Australia and to witness its practice by Australian professionals.
Participating in the workshop were 12 Chinese professionals representing the NACH, the China National Institute for Cultural Property, and the directors of provincial cultural heritage bureaus and of the nationally important cultural sites of the Mogao grottoes and the Chengde Imperial Summer Resort. The team, which will guide the development and dissemination of the conservation principles, was led by Zhang Bai, deputy director of NACH. "The workshop was a great success," he said. "Through the process, senior Chinese heritage officials became familiar with conservation policies and the operation of the Burra Charter in Australia. We also learned that it is important for conservation specialists to exchange ideas and experiences in considering their own country's situation. I believe that we have strengthened the foundation of our collaboration and that our project will be fruitful."
The workshop was structured around visits to historic sites and buildings in the Sydney and Canberra area that reflect a wide range of heritage values and approaches to conservation, interpretation, and use of heritage sites. Discussions centered on how the conservation principles and planning process advocated in the Burra Charter have been applied to these heritage places. A draft outline of conservation principles produced by the Chinese team was reviewed and revised in light of their experiences and discussions in Australia. The draft will serve as the basis for further development of the principles by the Chinese team in the coming months. A second workshop in China in late summer will review and finalize a draft document. The draft principles will be validated in a third workshop through the development of a conservation plan for a major cultural site in China.
Based on some one hundred selected sites across China, the outcome of the project will be a document and an illustrated book, in Chinese and English versions, that will disseminate the principles of good conservation practice to a wide audience of professionals and site managers throughout China.