Sino-Greek cooperation in cultural heritage conservation mutually beneficial, say experts

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Musicians perform songs during a Guangdong culture tour in Athens, Greece, Nov. 20, 2023. (Photo by Marios Lolos/Xinhua)

"Through this interaction, we manage to understand each other, to enhance, as we say, mutual understanding, mutual collaborations, and also get to realize the importance of civilization diversity," said Demetrios Anglos, a Greek researcher.

by Maria Spiliopoulou, Chen Gang

ATHENS, April 15 (Xinhua) -- To protect and promote their respective rich cultural heritage, Greece and China have embarked on a journey of cooperation featuring mutual respect and a shared vision.

The China-Greece Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Cultural Heritage Conservation Technology is an example of such cooperation.

"Since October 2020, the Palace Museum and the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (IESL-FORTH) collaborated toward the development and construction of a common laboratory. This is a collaboration between 11 institutes from Greece and China, including museums, archeological sites, archaeological institutions, universities and of course, research institutes," said Paraskevi Pouli, chief application scientist at IESL-FORTH, in a recent interview with Xinhua in Heraklion, Crete Island.

"It is a multidisciplinary international cooperation platform which aims to exchange knowledge, experience, technology toward the study, understanding and conservation of our mutual cultural heritage," she pointed out.

The IESL-FORTH is renowned in Europe for its research in laser optics, particularly its application in the study and preservation of cultural heritage.

Meanwhile, the Palace Museum houses a vast collection of stone sculptures and architectural components, presenting significant opportunities for the application and development of laser technology.

Passengers watch a dragon dance performance at the Athens International Airport in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 12, 2024. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

Since 2016, the two sides have collaborated in technical development, equipment setup, and talent cultivation.

"Indeed, the joint lab plays a key role in promoting exchanges and enhancing mutual understanding. In the context of the collaboration, which is in the field of conservation science, from our side we learn a great deal of new challenges. We expose ourselves to novel challenges, scientific challenges, and technological challenges, collaborating with our Chinese colleagues," said Demetrios Anglos, a researcher at the IESL-FORTH.

"What we do this way is we try to adapt our know-how and technologies so that we can help effectively our Chinese colleagues to address critical problems in conservation. This is very important," he told Xinhua.

"But above all, the Palace Museum and the conservation department there can benefit by introducing, importing and applying new technologies," he added.

Both sides carried out intensive cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic, working through teleconferences that they organized almost on a weekly or 15-day basis.

"So, we had the chance to discuss with our colleagues and try to communicate and keep all this collaboration alive," Pouli said.

According to the Palace Museum, the two sides have jointly developed four new technologies and three sets of new equipment, including cultural relic hyperspectral automatic scanning technology and equipment.

In September 2023, a scholarly exchange event themed with "Heritage Science, a global driver for sustainability" was held at the Palace Museum and attracted more than 2,000 attendees both on the spot and online.

"We were very happy because we could see a vivid interaction with the students and the colleagues in the Palace Museum, and that was a very nice feeling and experience," Pouli added.

Both Greek experts are very optimistic about the prospects of lab cooperation.

On Dec. 20, 2023, they, along with their Chinese colleagues at the Palace Museum, submitted a proposal to the Chinese government for international cooperation in technological innovation under the "National Key R&D Program," focusing on the application of laser cleaning technology in cultural heritage preservation between China and Greece.

"In the coming months, we will also submit the same proposal to the Greek government. We are confident and enthusiastic about the future," Pouli said.

"Through this interaction, we manage to understand each other, to enhance, as we say, mutual understanding, mutual collaborations, and also get to realize the importance of civilization diversity," which is greatly beneficial to both sides and the world at large, added Anglos.

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