After geo-political changes in the 1980s, UNESCO organised five international scientific expeditions on the Silk Road between 1990 and 1995:

(1) The Desert Route from Xi’an to Kashgar (20 Jul – 3 Aug 1990)
(2) The Maritime Route, Venice to Osaka (13 Oct 1990 – 3 Mar 1991)
(3) The Steppe Route in Central Asia (18 Apr – 17 Jun 1991)
(4) The Nomads’ Route in Mongolia (10 Jul – 5 Aug 1992)
(5) The Buddhist Route – Nepal (21-30 Sept 1995)

The five expeditions were designed to combine science with media coverage. Over 500 participants – scientists, academics, students, journalists – from different countries participated, numerous seminars and symposia were held. As a result, several exhibitions were curated, and research institutes were created. Information about these can be found on the UNESCO Silk Road website. Thirty years later, Helen Wang asks what do people remember about the UNESCO Silk Road expeditions? What was their impact on individuals, organisations, and the general public in countries around the world?

With Helen Wang, Curator, British Museum

The session included a presentation on the background and multi-dimensional history of the Silk Road, from the creation of the term “Silk Road” by a German geographer working in China in the 1870s, to its use today.

The main focus was on the five UNESCO Silk Road expeditions. It provided a framework in which ITP fellows from different countries could what the Silk Road means to them, which may include shared experiences in working on Silk Road projects past and present.