Heritage Collections Annual Report 2008/9
Below you will find a summary of key points from the Annual Report for Durham University Heritage Collections. Information on the activities of the Special Collections is followed by a summary of the work of the University Museums.
The full report can also be downloaded from this page:
- Annual Report 2008/9 (0.65 MB PDF) (last modified: 27 October 2009)
A successful bid was made for £500,000 from the Wolfson Foundation to fund Phase 1 of the redevelopment of Palace Green Library. The final result will be a refurbished Exhibition Hall, and the renovation of Cosin's Library.
Another large addition to the University Archive was made this year: all the major central administrative records series have now been brought into archival stewardship. Some World War I period college and university records were also purchased at auction.
Other purchases were related to Bamburgh Castle and the Sharp family and a manuscript by Edward Bradley (alias Cuthbert Bede). Further papers of Abbas Hilmi II have been deposited by Prince Abbas Hilmi. Sudan collections accessions included papers concerning the current Abyei Boundary Commission hearings in the courts in the Hague.
Dr Robin Dix bequeathed 60 printed items by and about the Newcastle poet and physician Mark Akenside (1721-1770). Dr Keith Gilroy's donations this year include works by Newton, Voltaire, Diderot and John Locke, first editions of Johnson's Lives of the poets, Boswell's Life of Johnson and some Wordsworth poetry, and five extremely fine examples of English private press books.
Other acquisitions were the purchase of a 1513 edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, with impressive woodcuts, from the sale of the Earl of Macclesfield's library and a 1587 edition of Euclid, once part of a local antiquarian's collection. Miss Ada Radford gave the local studies collection thirty local history books, the earliest dated 1769.
Catalogues of the Wylde collection and further University records were published this year, in addition to the latest Dix printed books. This year, however, the bulk of the cataloguing effort has been directed toward the probate records, through the North East Inheritance project, and toward the Sudan Archive, through the bequest of Mrs Kathleen Wood. The NEI catalogue will be launched in 2010, and cataloguing of two sections of the Wingate papers have already been completed.
The JISC Sudan Digitisation project has provided the impetus to set up our digitisation operation. The project has procured a camera, and funded a digitiser for 12 months. It will provide web access to heavily used printed and cartographic material and preservation standard storage from within a single Fedora digital repository. This has provided the foundation for our future digitisation work, combining access and preservation for the first time and will put us in a good position to receive born-digital information.
As part of the JISC/RLUK Digitisation project '19th Century British Pamphlets' 743 Grey collection pamphlets were digitised and are now available through JSTOR.
Reader numbers and services provided
The number of registered readers has fallen again this year to 661 and the number of day visits has also dropped but are still over 2,300. However, the time spent by each reader has increased significantly. The proportion of external readers has grown from 47% in 2007/8 to 62% in 2008/9. The corresponding fall in university readers should be balanced out by a 150% increase in display classes and research skills sessions delivered to students of the University enabling Special Collections to support research and teaching in a more mediated way outside the Search Room service. We hope to improve awareness of the potential uses of the collections in the next academic year by targeting academics teaching specific courses.
Sale of digital photographs, including images of material formerly impossible to reproduce, has substantially increased due to the availability of the new digital camera and digitiser.
Conservation and Collections care
Project work has been a steady core to the work of the department with the final year of NEI conservation work achieving the repair and conservation of a large number of the most fragile of the 17th-century probate documents. The ICON Book conservation trainee, completing her second year, was tasked with priority non-project work, which work can continue next year due to the securing of additional funding for two conservators for one year. The North East Collections Care Framework initiative rolled out a programme of collections care training, and a regional disaster network was set up.
A large exhibition featuring Kenneth Whitehead and his collection was mounted from February to April. Two events in Cosin's Library on the nature of books and on manuscripts and early printed books were offered as part of the Durham Book Festival.
Access and Learning
Display classes and seminars, both for Durham University departments and visiting groups, were an area targeted for substantial development and growth this year. Pre-dissertation classes were very well attended, and research skills training was also provided to postgraduates. A medieval bookhands class was held at 5 The College, and a codicology course for postgraduates based on manuscripts and early printed books from the collections was hosted at Palace Green library.
Partnership working with other archive repositories in the North East resulted in the online resources "Primary Sources" using archives for literacy and numeracy. Discussions were held with the Cathedral's education department to establish joint working especially around the World Heritage Site. Partnerships with the Archaeology Department produced a series of lectures and the "International Year of Astronomy" was celebrated with an exhibition and a series of lectures run jointly with the Physics Department.
The "4schools" website has been expanded to become a one-stop information point for all schools wishing to visit any Heritage Collections site as well as a location for online resources. Hits on the site remained high.
Retail and Marketing
The Treasures book continued to sell well, this revenue contributing to the funds of the History of the Book Centre. A successful innovation was the production of a University Library hessian bag with a quotation by the Chancellor, Bill Bryson, which completely sold out. At Palace Green this bag proved popular with tourists as well as students.
Gallery improvement has been a dominant theme in the museums this year and an application has been made for DCMS/Wolfson grant to fund further developments. The first stage of this improvement was the creation of a dazzling new display of the Designated Egyptology collection. The gallery was highly praised at its opening in July 2009. The next stage of reorganisation involves reordering office and education space at the Oriental Museum with continuing work on other parts of the displays at both sites. Proposals have been laid out to convert the cottage next to the Old Fulling Mill into new education, office and storage space. The layout of the reception and shop area of the Fulling Mill have been improved to coincide with the overhaul of the retail function of the museums, and sales have since shown a marked improvement.
The international touring exhibition Egyptian Art from Eton College and Durham University completed its tour of four locations in Japan, and our exhibits were safely returned to our collections.
Sixteen exhibitions were hosted in the museums sites. At the Oriental Museum these included displays of kimonos, photographs of China, and two contrasting exhibitions on Japanese manga and the Chinese version, manhua. The major exhibition in the Old Fulling Mill was on Yeavering Anglo-Saxon site.
Heritage Collections participated in both regional and national events. Contributions to the Durham Book Festival comprised a contemporary exhibition on the art of the book at the Oriental Museum. The Old Fulling Mill staged tours of the museum and displays for Heritage Open Days. At the Oriental Museum the Chinese Lantern Festival held after hours in February proved so popular there were queues to get in.
Awards and recognition
The quality of experience offered to the Oriental Museum's visitors continues to be recognised by the re-granting of certification in VisitBritain's quality assurance scheme (VAQAS).
New acquisitions this year included a Japanese quilt donated by Mrs. J. Wainwright, a Tibetan stringed musical instrument, donated by J. Marriott, and some Indian coins given by W.B. Maynard.
Documentation work has concentrated on adding images to records as well as adding new records to the ADLIB database. The cleaning of data has continued, facilitating a thorough collections audit process.
Access and Learning
The museums have continued their support of archaeology courses through object-focused teaching in the Old Fulling Mill, teaching of numismatics courses and support of students doing work experience. The material culture course (Anthropology) and Museum and Artefact Studies MA were supported by both museums and Special Collections. Discussions with the Education Department resulted in agreement to include information about Heritage Collection education work in the Department's information and induction programmes.
The Heritage Collections education department was successfully reorganised and integrated to enable its staff to work more flexibly and efficiently across all Heritage Collections sites and collections, including the Botanic Gardens. Online information and teacher materials about education sessions have been enhanced in preparation for badging within the government's Learning Outside the Classroom scheme. The Oriental Museum gallery trail and activities have been updated to integrate the redisplayed Egyptology collection.
School visits to the Old Fulling Mill and work in schools has increased now that the new Education Officer has become established. Activities offered included work on a Greek drama and the Tudor trail which had been developed as a result of Learning Links grants. Both these have proved very popular with schools and it is hoped to expand the Tudor trail next year to take in the Castle, whose schools work will be provided by Heritage Collections staff next year. A major development in the summer of 2009 was the inclusion of the schools work of the Botanic Gardens in Heritage Collections work. Plans are in train to do individual sessions in the Gardens and joint work across all four sites.
Visits to the Oriental Museum totalled 16,808 and at the Old Fulling Mill 8,573, an increase on last year's figures for both sites. The re-establishment of our full educational service for schools this year has helped boost the Oriental Museum visitor numbers as anticipated in last year's report. In addition, Oriental Museum exhibits in the exhibition that toured Japan were viewed by 185,692 persons.
Retail and Marketing
One of the achievements of this year has been the firm establishment of joint Heritage Collections marketing and retail activity. New tills were installed at both museums and Palace Green Library and the new system was set up in liaison with the new university Retail Manager and ITS. The e-commerce module will be rolled out next year and will be part of a university-wide development.
Sales have been strong at both museums in spite of the recession with the Oriental Museum up 45% and the Old Fulling Mill up 47% on last year's figures. The reorganisation and redesign of the Old Fulling Mill reception and shop area has made a more attractive retail venue and the stock has been better focused on the activities of the museum especially children's activities. Sales improved almost immediately.
Marketing has concentrated on publicising family activities and the exhibition programme well in advance and on doing joint marketing of all the university attractions, with a corresponding improvement in attendance at family events and local and national press coverage.