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Field trips to Patane Library, Mandarin’s House advance IFTM students’ knowledge of heritage conservation

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

A group of IFTM students enrolled in the Heritage Management Bachelor’s Degree Programme recently toured the Patane Library and the Mandarin’s House, as part of their course on Principles of Conservation. The Year 2 undergraduates were accompanied by experts from the Cultural Affairs Bureau, who detailed to students the approaches respectively used in the conservation projects for those buildings.

The venue visits took place in March and were facilitated by course leader Dr. Vicky Chen Zhaoyu. The goal was to conduct site interpretations at each place visited, in order to extend student understanding of conservation practices. The activities involved on-site observation and discussion with the Cultural Affairs Bureau representatives – professionals with extensive experience in conservation projects in Macao.

The field trip to the Patane Library, at the Inner Harbour area, was held on 21 March. The IFTM students were accompanied by architect Mr. Lam Kai Wun from the Cultural Affairs Bureau, who was involved in the library’s renovation.

The Patane Library sits within what had been a terrace of seven traditional arcade buildings, built in the 1930s and previously used as shophouses. The buildings were renovated and made into a single space by the Cultural Affairs Bureau. It then converted the structure into the Patane Library, a facility inaugurated in 2016.

During the visit, Mr. Lam discussed with students the renovation project for the library. He detailed the conservation approach adopted, and the process and techniques used, while highlighting the purpose and impacts of the project.

“Conservation work of a heritage building should not only focus on retaining its heritage significance, but also on community involvement and cultural continuity in the long run, after the conservation work had been completed,” Mr. Lam told students. “When we decided on the use for this set of buildings, we also decided to enlarge the project’s impact, in order to benefit the neighbourhood,” he added.

Mr. Lam said a key aim of the renovation work was to allow library users from different generations to discover, and connect with, the history and traditions of the Inner Harbour area. In addition, the Patane Library was developed as a “multifunctional space”, featuring a special reading area for children, and facilities for the elderly and people with physical disabilities.

The site visit allowed students to understand how conservation concepts and techniques learned in the classroom were put into practice in the Patane Library project. Participants displayed – via lively exchanges – strong interest in the details shared with them by Mr. Lam.

True to origins

The field trip to the Mandarin’s House, on 22 March, saw Mr. Chan Kin Seng, also an architect at the Cultural Affairs Bureau, act as guide. He highlighted the focus of the conservation project for that building had been restoration to its original structure. In order to achieve that, and before renovation work could start, experts collected troves of information on the building, much of it via interviews with people that had previously lived there, but also by resorting to historical records.

Mr. Chan pointed out the conservation project was particularly challenging to conduct, since the Mandarin’s House had been in a severely damaged condition, and there had been insufficient records available regarding its original architecture. The Mandarin’s House – part of the Historic Centre of Macao – began undergoing conservation work in 2002, eventually opening to the public in early 2010.

IFTM students displayed sound critical thinking skills while discussing the overall project with Mr. Chan. They were reminded to follow the spirit of the Burra Charter, a document influential in modern conservation practices: “conservation requires a cautious approach of changing as much as necessary, but as little as possible” so that cultural significance is retained.

Through the field trips, the students consolidated the knowledge obtained via the course on Principles of Conservation. They also broadened their horizons regarding heritage management, helping them to prepare for a career in the field of cultural heritage.