November 05, 2019

Getty and Myanmar to Partner on Conservation Plan for Bagan

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Getty will work with Myanmar’s Department of Archaeology and National Museum on a comprehensive and long-term conservation plan for thousands of ancient buildings, art, and objects

View of Bagan, Myanmar. Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Trust

BAGAN, MYANMAR/LOS ANGELES – The Getty Conservation Institute of Los Angeles will begin a long-term commitment in Bagan to conserve and protect ancient cultural heritage supporting Myanmar’s Department of Archeology and National Museum, Getty and Bagan officials announced today.

Getty will partner with local officials to address a variety of complex conservation issues across the vast Bagan Archeological Zone to preserve the site for future generations. Work will include research into the repair of buildings damaged by earthquakes and assistance to prevent damage from future seismic events, identifying methods to conserve the treasured decorative elements of the site, developing strategies to manage an anticipated influx of tourism, and training local professionals to continue conservation efforts.

A large-scale conservation project has become critically important since Bagan was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2019. While the World Heritage designation will bring welcome attention to the region, increased numbers of visitors will compound the conservation challenges.

“Bagan is a treasure. This vast cultural landscape is significant not only to the people of Bagan, but to people around the world as evidenced by its recent inscription on the World Heritage List,” says Tim Whalen, John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute. “We look forward to this long-term partnership with our colleagues here at Bagan to conserve this magical place and together to build the professional capacity necessary to preserve its significance well into the future.”

Getty will begin its work in Bagan in January 2020 while it finalizes long-term project details with local cultural offices.

“MORAC is very pleased to receive the GCI’s support for Bagan heritage conservation with its highest technology, expertise and systematic approach,” says U Kyaw Oo Lwin, director general of the Department of Archaeology and National Museum. “We really appreciate the efforts and good will of the GCI team to make Bagan more sustainable. We will work together long term for the best protection of cultural heritage in Myanmar.”

Getty envisions that other regions of Southeast Asia will be able to learn from the conservation experience in Bagan. The project is part of Getty’s Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past, a new global initiative to promote a greater understanding of the need to protect and save the world’s cultural heritage for future generations.

The Getty project will include a number of case studies that will be used to inform future conservation efforts in Bagan and elsewhere. One of the first buildings to be studied will be Myin-Pya-Gu, an expansive and picturesque temple that has been closed to the public for several years due to conservation concerns.

The Bagan region of Myanmar in Southeast Asia is known for the over 3,500 ancient temples, pagodas, and monasteries that dot its landscape. These magnificent structures house an astonishing array of wall painting, sculpture, decoration and inscription that are the surviving traces of a powerful empire.

Bagan was the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later become modern-day Myanmar. It is distinctive among Buddhist sites in Asia, not only for the number of its surviving buildings spanning over 50 square kilometers, but the diversity of art and objects within them. There is archeological evidence dating back to the 2nd century AD, but the surviving monuments were built during Bagan’s golden period between the 11th and 13th centuries. It remains an important and active place of pilgrimage and worship, and many still reside in villages throughout the area.

Bagan has been continually plagued by earthquakes, the latest of which, in 2016, damaged over 400 structures. The region also suffers from regular flooding, made even more frequent due to climate change. Tourism also poses a new set of challenges, with hotel construction and increased international interest creating additional pressures on the site.

Past Getty Conservation Institute projects have included a 30-year effort to conserve ancient Buddhist cave temples at the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, China, a ten-year project to conserve the tomb of King Tutankhamen in Egypt, and an ongoing exploration of ways to conserve seismically affected earthen architecture in Peru, among many others. All of these projects not only address conservation challenges faced by Getty partners, but are used to advance conservation in regions that face similar challenges.

“Getty is well-suited to embark on a project of this size and scope, since it is known for its ability to develop and maintain long-lasting partnerships with cultural heritage organizations all over the world,” says Susan Macdonald, head of Building and Sites for the Getty Conservation Institute. “The Getty in particular is renowned for its ability to offer sustainable, high-quality and measurable conservation solutions that can be studied and implemented by professionals all over the world.”



The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts—broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, field projects, and the dissemination of information. In all its endeavors, the GCI creates and delivers knowledge that contributes to the conservation of the world’s cultural heritage.

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