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National Palace Museum before they open to the public on my first day! Photo credit: Tammy Y. Hong
The National Palace Museum (NPM) in Taipei, Taiwan (國立故宮博物院) houses some of the world's finest Chinese imperial treasures many of which were once a part of the Beijing Palace Museum in the Forbidden City during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The 700,000 artifacts in the NPM's collection encompass over 4,000 years of Chinese civilization as well as recent acquisitions representative of Asian cultures in surrounding regions. I officially began the first half of my third year at the NPM on September 1st after a 30-hour journey across the ocean from Boston to Taipei. (The NPM has two campuses – the main campus in Taipei and another smaller campus in Tainan.) From September 2023 to January 2024, I will be supervised by Mr. Hung Sun-Hsin (洪顺興), Chinese Painting Conservation Associate Researcher and Section Chief of the Department of Registration and Conservation at the NPM. My internship at the NPM will be a focused experience in Chinese mounting, traditions, and materials that will be a continuation of my previous summer placements in the East Asian Paintings Conservation Department at the National Museum of Asian Art, D.C. and the Asian Paintings Studio at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The NPM's collection holds immense historical and cultural significance in the identity discourse and collective social memory of the region. The artworks in the collection are no strangers to war and violence as it has survived countless conflicts and looting within the last century such as the Boxer Rebellion and the Japanese invasion of China during World War II. In the 1930s, the Kuomingtang (KMT国民党), the then ruling party in Mainland China, first decided to move the collection from the Forbidden City to Shanghai and Nanjing before separating the artifacts to be stored in various locations in Sichuan to protect them against the Japanese invasion. Following the Japanese surrender in 1947, the artifacts were reassembled in Nanjing. After the end of World War II, the Chinese Civil War between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP共产党) resumed which led to the KMT's defeat and the party's relocation to Taiwan. In 1948, the National Central Museum Council in China decided that some of the masterpieces in the Beijing National Palace Museum as well as those in other museums such as the National Central Library and Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinian to be shipped to Taiwan. These artifacts formed the basis of NPM's collection which opened to the public in 1965.
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Li, Di (李迪), Liu Pei’s Third Visit to Chu-Ke Liang (李迪畫三顧圖), Song Dynasty (painting), hanging scroll, ink on silk, 175.7cm x 82.5cm (painting alone), National Palace Museum (国立故宫博物院), Taipei, Taiwan. https://digitalarchive.npm.gov.tw/Painting/Content?pi
I am excited to be placed at the NPM, one of the leading institutions in the East Asian and Southeast Asian regions in conservation and collections care, and to be working with colleagues in a non-Eurocentric cultural context. As an emerging Chinese-American community conservator navigating the absence of my own cultural heritage in my conservation education in the United States, my graduate school experiences encouraged me to think deeply about the necessity of facilitating more dialogues regarding conservation and preservation philosophies between different cultural environments to ethically care for cultural heritage housed outside of their original contexts. To address these circumstances, I supplemented my training in Western paper conservation with research, treatments, and outreach projects that aim to address the underrepresentation of Asian artifacts in the North American framework of cultural heritage care and material culture studies during my time at WUDPAC. It has been a dream come true to be placed at the NPM where I am able to expand my knowledge of Chinese paintings conservation, history, and traditions in a Mandarin work environment.
My main treatment project at the NPM is to assist with the remounting of a hanging scroll that was once a part of Emperor Qianlong's (乾隆) collection titled Liu Pei's Third Visit to Chu-Ke Liang attributed to Li Di (李迪畫三顧圖) and the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The hanging scroll, possibly remounted sometime during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), was previously treated in its lifetime by mounters working in the Beijing imperial palace a few hundred years ago and once at the NPM in the 1990s. These treatments, such as partial remountings and the use of reinforcement strips to mitigate creasing, were performed to temporarily stabilize this possibly Ming era mounting. Ideally, the mountings of Chinese paintings should be replaced by a new one every 100-200 years. According to this tradition, this painting is long overdue for a remounting and the artifact's condition issues show that the deteriorating mounting materials were no longer serving their purpose to protect the painting. A remounting treatment, especially one of a large painting such as this one, is a time consuming, involved, and slow process that requires several months to a year or two to complete. During my time at the NPM, I will only be participating in the facing, backing removal, loss filling, and possibly lining steps of this painting's treatment.
I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the care of a collection that deeply resonates with my Chinese heritage at the NPM. Additionally, I look forward to further honing my mounting skills through creatingmockups of a three-colored hanging scroll (三色裱) and a handscroll (手卷) as well as attending the mounting class taught by Mr. Hung at the Tainan National University of the Arts' Graduate Institute of Conservation of Cultural Relics and Museology (國立臺南藝術大学). I am excited to continue learning from the networks of care surrounding Asian artifacts through creating ongoing dialogues with the people and my lived environment during my time here in Taiwan.
Tammy Y. Hong (洪莹)National Endowment for the Humanities Graduate FellowWinterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC)Student Blog: National Palace Museum, Taipei (國立故宮博物院)
Applying a facing layer to the front of the painting to stabilize the weakened silk substrate prior to backing removal and lining. This temporary facing layer will be removed once the new lining layers have been attached. Photo credit: Hung Sun-Hsin
Performing backing removal with Mr. Hung. Reinforcement strips applied by generations of mounters were revealed during this treatment step. Photo credit: Zhang Jing-Ru