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While the British Museum is closed and the Science and Conservation teams aren’t able to get to the collection or into our laboratories we can still share our brilliant scientists and conservators in action with previously unseen recorded footage. We hope you find this interesting and educational.

This clip is a captioned video. No audio.

A massive figure of Amitābha Buddha standing on a lotus base, made of white marble, with traces of gilding and pigments and a visible joint at the Buddha’s waist. Two hands are missing but the wooden dowels and iron brackets installed at the end of arms to hold the hands remain. According to the inscription on the base, it was dedicated in AD585.


The in-situ treatment involved removing a build up of dust from the statue, which stands an impressive 5.78m tall and has traces of gilding and paint. Scientists used scanning electron microscopy to determine that wood from a jujube tree was used for the dowels that held the Buddha’s now-lost arms and hands. The cleaning also fully revealed an inscription that had been partially masked, which links the colossal statue to the Chongguang Temple in Hebei Province, Northern China, and to 80 members of a Buddhist society known as the Yi-yi.

This project has been made possible by funding from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project.



The British Museum Research Laboratory was founded in 1920. The Laboratory’s scientists provide insights into the past through research on the collection. Using both traditional and the very latest methods and equipment they are able to answer questions that help with the interpretation and understanding of the collection. Their discoveries can tell us what objects from the Museum’s collections are made out of, how they were made, when and where they were made and what that tells us about their history.