DRI News & Communications

Life-size Terra-Cotta statue gets permanent home at Reno’s Desert Research Institute

DRI scientists to discuss efforts in preserving Terra-Cotta figures in China 

FOR IMMEDIATERELEASE: February 5, 2013 

RENO – The Desert Research Institute is proud to invite the media to attend the unveiling of “The General,” a life-size replica of a Terra-Cotta Warrior statue on DRI’s Reno campus.

300dpi-Dr-Watson-and-Dr-Chow-assembling-a-pollution-sampler-thbDr. Watson and Dr. Chow assembling a pollution sampler.

Event Details:
Date: Friday, Feb. 8th
Time:9:30am - 10:15am (media recommended to arrive by 9:15 a.m.)
Location:Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno (media enter through main entrance)
Interview and Photo opportunities: 

  • Dr. Judy Chow and Dr. John Watson, primary researchers on the Terra Cotta project 
  • Dr. Stephen G. Wells, DRI President
  • Tom and Mary Kay Gallagher, DRI Research Foundation members and Terra Cotta donors 
  • Lawrie Lieberman, DRI Research Foundation Chair 

Background on DRI’s  involvement with the Terra-Cotta Army: 

Drs. Judith Chow and John Watson have traveled to China for nearly two decades conducting research. In that time, the internationally recognized air quality experts have collaborated with Chinese scientists and institutions to come up with solutions to address air quality issues. Both Chow and Watson realized that the ancient 2,000 plus year old Terra-Cotta Army, revealed by Chinese peasant farmers in Xi’an in 1974, was deteriorating as a result of air pollutants and nearly 2 million tourists visiting the museum annually where the statues are housed. The Terra-Cotta discovery has become one of China’s greatest historical treasures. Ground penetrating radar has revealed that approximately 7,000 warriors, horses, and chariots exist, and about 1,000 have been excavated. This unearthing led to the discovery of where China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang was buried. 

terra-cotta-warrior-molding-thbThe result of thirty years of exposure.  judy-chow-and-warrior-thbDr. Chow was key in leading the efforts in measuring pollutant exposure levels.The change in appearance of the statues after 30 years above-ground exposure, however, prompted the researchers to work with Chinese officials and DRI President, Dr. Stephen Wells to sign a two-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Earth Environment in Xi’an along with China’s Polytechnic Institute and Emperor Qin’s Terra-Cotta Warrior and Horses Museum. “In Xi’an, the air quality was affecting many precious artifacts through coal-fired power stations, vehicle exhaust, biomass burning, visitors, and changes in climate,” Dr. Chow said.

Chow and Watson led the efforts in measuring pollutant exposure levels, clarifying the material damage mechanisms, and evaluating remediation methods. They would find that outside air pollution, temperatures, humidity in the museum and pollution from tourists was leading to the Terra-Cotta Army’s overall decline. “The exposure, nature of the damages, and remediation all take years to study,” Dr. Watson said. They helped in implementing stricter guidelines for excavation of these statues with air quality and environmental controls intact and improved methods to reduce exposure for the artifacts. 

 Background on how “The General” made it to DRI: 

In the fall of 2012, DRI Trustee Tom Gallagher and his wife Mary were on a delegation support mission with Dr. Wells and other DRI key players in China. Upon touring the museum in Xi’an, the Gallagher’s got a first-hand glimpse of the extensive work and collaboration between DRI and China. Already a major supporter of the institution, the Gallaghers decided that donating a replica to house at the Reno location would be an opportunity to bring a piece of China’s history and DRI’s involvement back to Nevada. 

“The General calls attention to the terrific work being conducted by DRI scientists,” Tom Gallagher said. “I’m proud to have the opportunity to be supportive.” 

“Its support from trustee’s such as the Gallagher’s that allow DRI to continue our efforts in remaining a globally recognized institution,” Dr. Wells said. 

About Desert Research Institute: DRI, the nonprofit research campus of the Nevada System of Higher Education, strives to be the world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people’s lives throughout Nevada and the world. 

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