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Time, Culture and Identity

The co-creation of historical research and co-development of visitor experience in China and the UK.


The project aims to explore the potential of the cultural and creative economy through two interacting strands:

A collaborative research programme between curators and researchers at the Science Museum in London and the Palace Museum in Beijing, working with scholars at Beijing Jiaotong University and the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences (Chinese Academy of Sciences), around a unique collection of eighteenth-century clocks, manufactured and designed in England, but created for the Imperial court and held in China.

A co-design approach to the digital interpretation of the clocks involving knowledge exchange between UK and Chinese creative businesses. This is being supported by audience research into the display of the clocks in three locations: Beijing, Hong Kong and London, and is bringing together creative companies in both countries to explore new alliances and ways of working.


Time, Culture and Identity fosters creative and commercial collaboration between cultural partners and businesses in the UK and China by exploring the history of cultural and economic exchanges between the two nations through the lens of timekeeping.

Exquisite but rarely-seen clocks from the collection of The Palace Museum in Beijing will be brought to life via new digital experiences, co-designed by UK and Chinese creative businesses. By stimulating knowledge exchange and brokering commercial relationships between the UK and China, the project is developing methods for cross-cultural approaches to connecting audiences with their scientific heritage.


Our ambition is that this project will:

  • Make a major contribution to understanding the contexts and interests of audiences in the UK and China
  • Enable companies to build stronger links, supporting understanding across the creative industries in China and the UK
  • Lead to the development of a significant digital resource to support the interpretation of eighteenth-century clocks, manufactured and designed in England, but created for the Imperial court and held in China
  • Through studying the spread of concepts of time, and the translation of technology and tacit knowledge to support that, this project will develop our understanding of the cross-cultural transmission of technology between China and the UK.


  • Creation of relationships and understanding between UK/China creative companies, museums and academics through two workshops held in Beijing: a Knowledge Exchange Workshop and a Digital Workshop. The learning outcomes of these workshops will be communicated to a larger audience online.

  • Development of a digital resource which builds on knowledge and cultivates interpretation techniques for cultural heritage in different contexts.
  • Creation of guidelines, methodologies and tools for collaborative working and the creation of digital heritage products in UK/China.
  • Development of collaborative presentations, discussions at conferences and published research papers to build knowledge exchange beyond the project in the UK and China.
  • Development of new knowledge about the Imperial clock collection, the results of which will inform academic understanding of different cultures of time across the UK and China, and its role in the creation of an industrialised nation.


  • Collections Partner: The Palace Museum
  • China Principal Investigator: Yao Yan-an, Professor, Beijing Jiaotong University, China
  • UK Principal Investigator: Tilly Blyth, Head of Collections and Principal Curator, Science Museum
  • China Co-Investigator: Huang Xing, Associate Professor, Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • UK Co-Investigator: Emma Stirling-Middleton, Project Curator: China, Science Museum
  • China-UK Research Facilitator: Carol Chung, UK-China Research Facilitator, Science Museum

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