Franklin Institute partners with museum of terra-cotta warriors in China

The Franklin Institute and the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum in Xi’an, China, entered into a formal partnership at a ceremonial signing Thursday in Philadelphia, making future collaborative efforts between the two institutions a virtual certainty.

Hou Ningbin, director of the Terracotta Army Museum, as it is informally known, said future exhibitions are a distinct possibility. But he has been particularly impressed by the educational programming at the Franklin Institute. The institute’s focus on culture and technology is something to learn from, he said.

Larry Dubinski, president and chief executive of the Franklin Institute, who has just been named chair-elect of the board of directors of the international Association of Science-Technology Centers, said the Franklin and the Xi’an museum had been working together for more than  two years developing partnership and trust.

The “Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor” exhibition, now at the Franklin Institute through March 4, marks “the first instance of what I hope is a lasting relationship,” he said.

Dubinski, who has traveled to China three times over the last few years, building the relationship and honing the terra-cotta warriors exhibition, said the international partnership will bear its first tangible fruits in January, when a team of museum educators will come from Xi’an to Philadelphia to meet with colleagues; a contingent of Philadelphia colleagues will travel to China in March.

Initially, the two institutions will exchange ideas about the creation of engaging exhibitions “that pull folks in,” Dubinski said.

Hou said that “from the starting point, we would like to exchange and learn from the educational department” of the Franklin.

The Franklin Institute, he said, is unique in the way it  uses science and technology to illustrate how objects relate to the everyday world.

The Xi’an museum, which has about six million visitors annually, is at the epicenter of a vast archaeological site where thousands of ancient buried terra-cotta figures and artifacts were  discovered in 1974.

It soon became clear that the soldiers guarded the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, who died in 210 B.C.E.  Since the discovery, archaeological excavations have continued. A palace was unearthed as recently as 2012. The precise location of the emperor’s tomb remains unknown, however.

The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.