Conservation Forum

Forum for Conservation of Tibetan Art and Architecture, International Association for Tibetan Studies

Call for contributions
This forum is open to reports or news about conservation projects in the Himalayas, news about conferences dealing with related subjects, as well as news about completed projects or endangered sites. You can send in text and/or pictures anytime together with your contact information, anonymous contributions are discouraged. Papers will be checked by the Committee for the Study of Historic Tibetan Architecture (CSHTA) and published in this space.

During the Tenth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS), in Oxford 2003, the plenary session addressed the issue of preservation of Tibetan cultural heritage. A scientific commission was officially formed to look at the issue, and to report at the following Seminar. The commission members, chosen by popular vote, were Tsewang Gyurmney, head of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences; the Tibetan architect Minyak Choekyi Gyantsen; Heather Stoddard, Professor for Tibetan Studies at INALCO Paris and founder of Shalu Association; Deborah Klimburg-Salter, Professor at the Institute for History of Arts at Vienna University currently engaged in the preservation at Nako Temple in HP India; and THF's André Alexander. Below is a reproduction of the official statement.
Some of the committee members gave a presentation during the Eleventh Seminar of IATS held in Boon 2006, focussing on needs for and practicalities of both structural restoration and wall-painting conservation, as well as on a discussion of the Monument Approach (very common in China and much of Asia today) versus the Living Historic City Approach (as advocated by ICOMOS, UNESCO and THF).
A lively discussion ensued, that continued on the sidelines for the remainder of the conference. So at the plenary session, it was proposed to create a forum on conservation for Tibetologists. This forum could be used to exchange results from projects or relevant research carried out, or simply to highlight new projects or endangered sites. André Alexander volunteered to coordinate and edit the forum, which is to be shared between the THDL website at Virgina University and THF's website. Deborah Klimburg-Salter offered to try and organize a seminar on conservation of Tibetan wall-paintings at Vienna University. Watch this space for further announcements regarding seminars, events and projects.

Official Statement adopted by the plenary session of IATS 10, Oxford 2003
A Committee for the Study of Historic Tibetan Architecture (CSHTA) is being established by the International Association of Tibetan Studies (IATS). This committee will serve as an informational and scholarly task-force dedicated to the study of important old buildings and monuments, their architecture and decoration (including mural painting and sculpture), and their preservation in Tibetan cultural areas in China.

The establishment of this committee follows on a plenary discussion in the
business meeting of the Tenth International Association of Tibetan Studies
in September 2003 regarding the current state of important buildings in Lhasa and other places in the TAR. It reflects the longstanding special interest on the part of IATS membership in this matter, which has involved the signing of petitions by IATS members urging preservation of historic buildings on two separate occasions over the last twenty years. The mission of the committee is as follows:

1. To facilitate the academic study of historic Tibetan buildings and their preservation.

2. To compile information about the architecture and decoration of important historic buildings in Tibet, and to create links enabling scholars to exchange this information.

3. To encourage current efforts in Tibet at monument and architectural preservation and to make available any assistance that the network of scholars represented by
IATS can provide.

4. To give regular presentations on current conservation activities and the state of important historical buildings in Tibet and their artistic decoration to the membership of IATS at the plenary sessions of its business meetings

The members of the committee will have expertise in the art and architectural history of Tibet as well as in the traditional construction techniques used in Tibetan monuments. The committee will be prepared to share that expertise with groups or individuals concerned with the preservation of Tibetan cultural heritage. They will also network with other scholars represented by IATS as needed. The members of the group may also organize focussed scholarly meetings to discuss the history and current state of historically significant Tibetan buildings and monuments.

The president of IATS, in consultation with the IATS board of advisors, will invite qualified scholars to be members of the committee. The participation of Tibetan scholars and experts is seen as crucial. Tsewang Gyurme, Minyak Chokyi Gyaltsen, Heather Stoddard, Andre Alexander, and Deborah Kilmburg-Salter will be invited to constitute the committee for the next three years. If these individuals are not able to join the committee, the officers of IATS will seek other qualified scholars instead.

The committee will work closely with the officers of IATS. All activities,
reports, and statements that are sponsored or sent out under the name of this
committee will be approved by the president of IATS in consultation with the
board of advisors before such activities are planned or such statements

Prof. Deborah Klimburg-Salter:
Janet Gyatso: /
andre alexander: ,
heather stoddard:
Tsewang Gyurmey:

Announcement IATS 11 Bonn 2006
The IATS Standing Committee for the Study of the Tibetan Architectural Heritage invites the members of IATS to a special session to be held on Tuesday evening. This special session will feature a round-table discussion aimed at defining the primary questions and problems related to the preservation of architectural heritage in the Tibetan cultural zone. We will also discuss future tasks for the IATS working group during the coming three years.
In order to establish a basis for conversation and discussion during the session there will be three main presentations, supported by visual documentation. These examples will be drawn from the entire Tibetan cultural zone, including but extending beyond the TAR. The program chair will be Janet Gyatso, President of IATS. The three short reports will be presented by the three available of the appointed members of the Standing Committee: Andre Alexander, Heather Stoddard and Deborah Klimburg-Salter. Following these reports a general discussion should address the question of activities or measures that could be undertaken by IATS in order to support the goal of heritage preservation. Towards this end, all members of the organization who have actively participated in heritage conservation are asked to shortly describe their past work and their future plans. They are also asked to highlight specific problems they would like to see addressed by the IATS or the Committee.
With the founding of this committee, IATS has identified the study and preservation of Tibetan cultural heritage as a central issue for Tibetology. In order to facilitate contact among specialists in this field we would like to suggest that anyone wishing to describe from the floor their heritage preservation project should give the name of their project and the names of the members of the project who are present at the IATS conference, as well as an email address for future contact purposes to Deborah Klimburg-Salter either by email or in person. The other two members of the committee can also be contacted under: and
Thank you.

The three main reports will deal with the following:
Deborah Klimburg-Salter: proposed definition of goals for the IATS Committee and suggestions for exchange of information regarding heritage projects. Klimburg-Salter will also raise the problem of the conflicting demands between expectations by local peoples regarding the appropriate condition of the painting and sculptures in living monuments which are the setting for ritual and liturgy. These expectations will be contrasted with the canonical requirements or prescriptions for ritual restoration of a monument on the one hand and modern conservation practice on the other hand.
Andre Alexander will present a brief overview of the traditional Tibetan approach to conservation based on his research and extensive work with monastic communities in different parts of Tibet and the Western Himalayas. He will then proceed to discuss and contrast the "monument" approach to conservation currently favoured by the Chinese government with both traditional concepts and the international approach of the living historic city.
Heather Stoddard, based on her experience of restoration of several historic buildings in the TAR for their own sakes and also in order to protect the wall paintings or sculptures within, will discuss the conflict of views between “traditional” and “new” approaches in the context of rehabilitation of architecture and wall painting in the TAR today.
Copyright, Tibet Heritage Fund