A network of academics from the UK and China campuses of the University of Nottingham met with key personnel from science and cultural institutions in China, opening up the possibility for new research collaborations, commercial opportunities and exchange of expertise and skills.
Representatives from the University's Cultural Visiting China network visited the prestigious China Academy of Sciences in Beijing, the new Ningbo Port Museum and the Ningbo Museum to discuss collaborative projects – from designing portable ‘science camps’ for children, to the scanning of submerged buildings
A multi-disciplinary approach
The Cultural Visiting China network comprises over 40 academics from Nottingham’s international campuses in disciplines including engineering, architecture, art history, education, film studies, international communications and translation studies.
Their expertise allows them to take a multi-disciplinary approach to key issues in the museum and gallery sectors and the visitor economy more broadly, namely conservation, the visitor experience, exhibition design, creative technologies, and education & interpretation.
Dr Wang Qi (Architecture) led a delegation to the China Academy of Sciences in Beijing to showcase examples of how the University of Nottingham engages the public with its research and facilities. This marks the start of a collaboration exploring science education which will draw in computer scientists from the Horizon Digital Economy Research Centre, science communications professionals from the School of Chemistry, and scholars with an interest in digital engagement for learning from across the Humanities.
Dr Wang Qi is planning to work with the Paleonzoological Museum of China in Beijing on an international exhibition proposal which could bring elements of its feathered dinosaur fossil collection to the UK in the future.
Commenting on the value of a cross-cultural perspective to their work, Professor Wang Yuan, the Head of the Paleonzoological Museum of China and member of Chinese Academy of Sciences said: “The presentations given by the scholars from The University of Nottingham have left deep impressions on us. They have a unique understanding and profound insights on the popularisation of paleontology, archaeology and pedagogy. I think the visit has created very useful communications for both sides and I hope there will be other similar activities happening in the future.”
Dr Wang said: “This kind of two-way exchange of knowledge and resource will encourage not only academic cooperation but also public communication between the two countries. Nottingham's local communities will be able to share in recent exciting discoveries made by Chinese palaeontologists, meanwhile the University of Nottingham's rich experience and expertise on science popularization could help the China Academy of Sciences to build a new vision of science for the young generation of China. The excellent design of visitors' experience needs interdisciplinary collaboration crossing departments and campuses, an area in which the University of Nottingham certainly has the advantage."
Dr Jon Henderson (Archaeology) presented his work by invitation from UNESCO at the First Ningbo Forum of Underwater Archaeology held to mark the opening of the new Underwater Archaeology Conservation Centre Base and Museum at the Ningbo Port Museum. The museum (the largest and one of the highest rank museums in China) boasts an extensive collection of over 15,000 artefacts related to the port and its history covering topics including the history of the Port Museum, the Modern Port, Port Science, Digital Ocean and Underwater Archaeology.
The quantification and protection of China’s maritime heritage resource, forms an important component of China’s overall maritime archaeology strategy. At the conference Dr Henderson introduced cutting-edge new technologies for locating and surveying underwater sites currently being worked on at the University. It is hoped that work with these new technologies, in partnership with the Geospatial Engineering team at Ningbo, will lead to new research collaborations with the Chinese National Centre of Underwater Heritage in 2015.
Dr Henderson said: “Part of the Chinese national maritime archaeology strategy is to not only work with international colleagues but to develop long term co-operation between the Chinese offshore industry, marine agencies, and the regional marine archaeology centres. It is possible that the University of Nottingham could help facilitate such relationships at Ningbo in the coming years as it continues to develop the International Academy for Marine Economy and Technology (IAMET).”
3D online library
At a symposium hosted by senior personnel from the Ningbo Museum, Professor Julian Henderson (Archaeology) presented research findings on the provenance of glass objects found across the Silk Road and the potential for applying the same methodology to examine glazed pottery (including porcelain) and glass found in Ningbo, a port on the maritime Silk Road. Professor Gethin Roberts (Engineering) explained how technology being pioneered by his team could be used to capture data to create a 3D online library for the museum – thereby extending the reach of its collection.
Dr Wang Qi introduced his work on museum exhibition design. A second event in 2015 will see personnel from the museum presenting their research and collections to Nottingham academics in what is hoped to be the start of a partnership that will feed into future exhibition design and content, and collaborative research activity.
Supported by the award-winning Asia Business Centre at the University of Nottingham, and Sarah Kerr from Business Engagement and Innovation Services, the Cultural Visiting China network will be capitalising on the Year of Cultural Exchange between China and the UK in 2015 to further develop these new partnerships and to extend existing long-term collaborations with cultural partners in Shanghai and Nanjing.
Applying research to new contexts
Speaking about the value of the network to the University, Profess Chris Rudd, Pro-Vice chancellor for the Knowledge Exchange at the University of Nottingham said: “This new network offers an innovative, responsive way of applying our research to new contexts, and of developing cross-disciplinary teams that can deliver tangible benefits for the cultural organisations we work with, in the UK and in China. China’s visitor economy is in a period of rapid growth, with major investment underpinning new museum and gallery development. This is an exciting time for us to engage.’
Professor Nick Miles, Provost of The University of Nottingham in Ningbo said: ‘Ningbo’s impressive cultural infrastructure – particularly the Ningbo Museum and the new Ningbo Port Museum- offers an opportunity for scholars across our research base to enter into mutually beneficial exchanges of knowledge.’
The network’s academic Chair, Professor Julian Henderson said: “We look forward to welcoming our Chinese colleagues and collaborators to the UK in the coming years so as to continue our cross-cultural dialogue and to build on, expand and explore our interests in a mutually enriching way.”
Increasing our global reach
Professor Fintan Cullen, Dean of Arts for The University of Nottingham in Ningbo said: “The cultural visiting China project is a most opportune occasion to increase the global reach of research and knowledge exchange at the University of Nottingham. Nottingham’s thriving campus in China allows the University to encourage critical mass in what is a growing sector of that country’s strategic ambition.”
Next steps for the network include working closely with existing partners in some of the UK’s leading national cultural organisations, and regional partners in the Midlands, to add a practitioner and industry perspective to the network.
If you are interested in talking to members of the Cultural Visiting China network about their work and forthcoming activity – or if you are an academic or museum/gallery professional and wish to join the network – please contact Sarah Kerr.
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