Heritage experts call for wider use of digital tech

Updated: Apr 19, 2023 By Deng Zhangyu Print
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The central axis stretches for 7.8 kilometers through the Chinese capital. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Digital technology should be more widely used to protect and raise public awareness of monuments and heritage sites, experts and scholars said at an event in Beijing on Tuesday to celebrate the International Day for Monuments and Sites.

Also known as World Heritage Day, it was established in 1982 by the International Council on Monuments and Sites to promote awareness of cultural heritage and is held annually on April 18, featuring a series of activities.

This year's day featured the theme Heritage Changes and a session was organized in Beijing by ICOMOS China.

As technology has become increasingly important, some experts participating in the session called for more extensive use of technologies, especially digital technology, to deal with such changes.

Wang Xudong, director of the Palace Museum, said that the museum's digitization process has spanned more than two decades, with about 640,000 cultural relics being digitized.

Around 83,000 digital images have now been seen by the public, Wang said.

He added that the museum is stepping up the use of digital technologies to improve its public appeal and international exchanges.

Lyu Zhou, director of the National Heritage Center of Tsinghua University, said the speed that cultural heritage organizations in China have utilized digital technology is relatively slow compared with their counterparts overseas.

"We have to actively embrace digital technology to attract a wider audience with regard to our monuments and cultural heritage. Digital communication is very effective in winning visitors," said Lyu.

He mentioned that an online session to introduce the Beijing Central Axis last year once attracted more than 10 million viewers, a number he would never have imagined if the event was held offline.

Also thanks to a digital and interactive show about the Central Axis at the Drum and Bell Towers, the key cultural site and building standing on the axis have now become popular venues among young people, said Lyu.

The Beijing Central Axis, a historic strip of land stretching 7.8 kilometers between Yongding Gate in the south and the Drum and Bell Towers in the north, has many historical sites along it, including the Forbidden City.

Cheng Jianhua, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government, said that Beijing is building up a landmark city of digitization.

Although most experts hailed the use of digital technology, Zhang Jie, a professor of architecture from Tsinghua University, noted that going to visit these cultural heritage sites in person cannot be replaced by digital technology.

"The real charm of these sites is totally different from the digital experience," said Zhang.

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