West China Metropolis Daily - Cover News Reporter Yu Yan Luo Weiwei Intern Zhang Huimin Yuan Chenxi

White coats, microscopes, test tubes and containers on the countertop, with these objects alone, almost no one thought that Qin Dan's work was dealing with cultural relics.

The Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base, located in Nan'an District, Chongqing, is Qin Dan's working place. And the content of her work is to "see, hear, inquire", "explore the cause", "prescribe medicine" and "operate" on cultural relics, so that cultural relics that have been "sleeping" underground for thousands of years and have become "sick" can be revitalized.

In June 2021, as an integral part of the China Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing, the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base was officially put into operation, and its work nature is an important continuation of the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Protection Project, committed to "science and technology empowers cultural preservation work". The base is equipped with a laboratory for the protection of cultural relics science and technology, a room for the restoration of cultural relics, a key laboratory of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage for pest control research in the collection of cultural relics, and a laboratory for the prevention and protection of precious cultural relics.

Qin Dan is a researcher at the Key Laboratory of Pest Control Research in the Collection of Cultural Relics and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

At 8 a.m. on a working day in late August, Qin Dan sat at the operator desk and was examining a fragment of a pottery artifact. It was a piece of pottery about 9 centimeters long and 8 centimeters wide, with a hint of white unknown substance on an area of less than 5 square centimeter, "probably mildew." Qin Dan said as he began to deal with it meticulously...

"I am a 'post-90s' and I dreamed of being a doctor"

Qin Dan, born in 1992, is an authentic Chengdu girl. Leaving the flat Sichuanxi Dam and coming to the mountain town of Shangkan to study, Qin Dan has always wanted to become a doctor, or engage in biomedical and pharmaceutical research. In the 10 years from undergraduate to doctoral studies, Qin Dan never thought that he would enter the cultural protection industry.

At the end of June 2021, Qin Dan, who was about to graduate from Southwest University, began looking for a job. Although there had been a recruitment notice for researchers at the China Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing in the class group, she did not go to her heart at all. Soon after, Qin Dan came to visit the Three Gorges Museum by chance, and suddenly, she thought of the recruitment information, and with the mentality of trying, Qin Dan contacted the person in charge of recruitment.

"It only took me just over two hours to decide to 'change careers'. First, because of my interest, I am full of curiosity about archaeology and cultural preservation work, and second, my research direction is very suitable for the research of mold diseases in the cultural protection base, which is related to microorganisms. After learning the specific work information from the person in charge of recruitment, Qin Dan immediately made the decision to join the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base.
According to Qin Dan's professional research direction, she was arranged to work in the team of "Key Laboratory of Pest Control Research of Cultural Relics in Collections, State Administration of Cultural Heritage". Qin Dan focuses on the research of pest control of cultural relics, focusing on the research of new technologies, new methods and new equipment for the prevention and control of organic matter cultural relics.

"We ordinary people basically know about cultural preservation, archaeology and other related work from TV and the Internet, which is full of mystery. Now I myself lifted the curtain of mystery and walked in. Qin Dan said that although he did not achieve his childhood dream, he is also doing the work of "saving lives and helping the wounded", "but the object has changed from a living person to a cultural relic that cannot 'speak'." ”

"I built a taxidermy at the base and contributed to the protection of cultural relics"

A few years ago, a documentary entitled "I Repair Cultural Relics in the Forbidden City" attracted many young people to devote themselves to the cause of cultural preservation. The wonderful moments recorded by the video are actually the condensation of daily work, and behind the seemingly relaxed and comfortable, there is still the arduous exploration of "sitting on a cold bench for ten years".

Qin Dan's work is no exception.

Staying in the laboratory every day, repeating the work of checking cultural relics and testing and sorting mold and pests, the lively "post-90s" Qin Dan "played" a different "flower work" with boring research, "Very fine alternaria is like a small chicken leg; Trichomyces will grow a ascomycete shell to wrap itself up, and there will be a lot of hyphae like antennae around it; Aspergillus flavus is a bit like a dandelion, a 'bald head' when he was a child, and hair-like spores grow little by little; Penicillium carmen, the shape is like a multi-headed rose. Qin Dan explains microbes in the microscope world. It is precisely because each mold has a unique form that Qin Dan compiled these molds into the "Pest - Mold Specimen Database".

"Mold is mainly obtained from the separation of paper artefacts, wooden artefacts, textile artifacts and leather artifacts. Up to now, the database has collected more than 300 mold specimens. Qin Dan said that the current collection scope is mainly focused on cultural relics unearthed in the Three Gorges reservoir area, and in the future, museums across the country will be investigated to collect more mold specimens into storage.

In addition to the establishment of a mold specimen database, the scientific research base has also carried out the construction of a cultural relic pest and pest bank, which has included 7 species groups, including tobacco beetles, piebald beetles, book lice, etc. Qin Dan said that by collecting and sorting out the types of mold and pests generated on the surface of various cultural relics, and establishing a mold specimen bank and insect bank, it can lay a solid research foundation for the subsequent prevention and control of cultural relics pests.

"I think cultural relics are a 'bridge' between us and the ancients. Through cultural relics, we can deeply understand the wisdom of the ancients and their exquisite craftsmanship, as well as the culture of that era. Qin Dan said.

"We use high technology to empower cultural protection, and the activation of cultural relics is no longer a dream"

Compared with traditional cultural relics protection and restoration skills, Qin Dan's work will rely more on the power of science and technology, "The intervention of science and technology is to inherit traditional protection methods to make more refined, more scientific and more accurate protection of cultural relics." She took the porcelain fragment that was previously processed and said that in the past, the method of detecting mold spots on it was very time-consuming, taking at least 3 to 5 days, but now using the newly developed ATP bioluminescence detection technology, only need to gently wipe the suspected mildew points on the fragments with a sampling cotton swab, and then quickly shake and mix the cotton swab with the reaction solution, put it into the detection instrument, and it only takes 15 seconds to show the test results of "mildew".

"This detection technology was jointly developed by me and my team members, based on ATP bioluminescence technology, real-time quantitative detection of mold on the surface of cultural relics, and the test results are displayed in the form of RLU values." Qin Dan said that this is one of the important achievements she has made since joining the company. Compared with traditional detection, the new instrument can not only quickly detect the mildew status of cultural relics, but also help to improve the early warning ability of microbial pollution of cultural relics and the ability to perceive the occurrence of diseases, and then provide scientific guidance for the prevention and control of biological diseases of cultural relics and subsequent restoration and preservation.

Qin Dan is part of a team of 15 people, and two other colleagues have PhDs, like her.

"Our majors cover a wide range of disciplines such as conservation, microbiology, entomology, pharmacy, chemistry and plant protection, covering all aspects of pest research in our collections." Qin Dan said with some pride that it is this highly educated and multidisciplinary team that has achieved fruitful scientific research results in the research of cultural relics pest control, and has undertaken 24 scientific research projects, including 12 at the provincial and ministerial level, published 22 academic papers, and has 13 authorized patents. At the same time, the base also provides more than 50 cultural and museum units across the country with services such as detection, analysis and technical consultation on the prevention and control of cultural relics pests.

With the joint efforts of this group of highly educated young people, the popularity of the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base has been continuously improved, and more and more public and private cultural and museum institutions have taken the initiative to seek help.

At the beginning of 2023, the oil painting artifacts in the collection of a museum in Shanghai underwent mildew. They found the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base, hoping that the base would send "cultural relics doctors" in the field of pest control to Shanghai for treatment. After receiving the task, Qin Dan immediately looked for and collected information related to the mildew of oil paintings, "This is the first time I have come into contact with cultural relics of composite materials in more than two years of work, because there are many materials and the mold situation is complicated, so I must be cautious." ”

While working in Shanghai, Qin Dan and his colleagues traveled to multiple material markets, buying similar materials back to the lab, constantly simulating the mildew process of oil painting, looking for the best solution. "This project took nearly half a year, we tried many kinds of mold control agents on materials that simulated mildew, controlled the concentration of the agents in great detail, and finally found the optimal and safest solution." Qin Dan pointed to the materials recorded in the computer and said that they had isolated a total of 23 molds, which were identified as bulbous shell, bractylus bractylis, very fine streptospora, penicillium oxalate and so on.

With the optimal solution, the subsequent "disease elimination" effect is also very ideal. In July 2023, on behalf of the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base, Qin Dan shared with industry experts and representatives of other memorial museums and art museums at the 7nd Academic Symposium on the Status Quo and Protection of Oil Painting Collections in China. The reputation of the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base and the Key Laboratory of Pest Control Research of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in the collection of cultural relics has once again made a name for itself in the industry.

"The development of cultural relics protection technology to this day has derived many branches. In the past, the experience of restorers was more relied on to protect and restore cultural relics, but now the preservation work must also rely on the power of science and technology to make the protection and activation of cultural relics more effective. Zhao Xiongwei, deputy director of the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Protection Base, said.

With the empowerment of cultural relics protection and restoration by science and technology, the Three Gorges Cultural Relics Science and Technology Protection Base has also applied new scientific and technological theories to apply computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to cultural relics exhibitions to monitor the temperature and humidity changes of the environment in which cultural relics are displayed during the exhibition.

"It's a wonderful feeling to see the cultural relics that I participated in restoring and protecting re-display in front of the public. At the same time, only by protecting each cultural relic can we make full use of them and make them truly alive. Qin Dan said that in her life, she will be a "cultural relics doctor".