Teaching & Research
The Oriental Museum was created to support teaching and research at Durham University.
On this page you will find information on the ways in which we support academic research and teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Durham University, and beyond. Follow the links in the text for more information on individual courses or to contact staff who can help you to arrange teaching sessions, research visits or work experience.
If you are looking for information on our schools teaching programmes, please follow the link to Education.
Durham University Museums support teaching at undergraduate and graduate level for a range of courses across Durham University and for other universities in the region. To meet the rising demand for teaching the museum has recently converted one of its workrooms into a space designed for small group teaching and object handling sessions (10-15 students). This is in addition to the existing classroom which holds up to 30 students.
There is no substitute for the experience of handling a 3,000 year old Ancient Egyptian scarab or a Ming Dynasty Chinese vase. For the academic year 2010/2011 museum staff are organising sessions for courses ranging from Archaeology to History of Art and the Politics of Pacific Asia. These sessions will involve around 400 undergraduates.
As handling sessions are most effective in small groups large classes are subdivided. Museum staff work with the academic running a course to select appropriate objects from museum displays and the stored collections so that students are given the opportunity to see, and handle, objects not normally on view to the public.
Museum staff also provide guided tours of the museum galleries for groups of undergraduates from a number of departments including Anthropology and Education. Any member of Durham University staff interested in incorporating a tour or handling session into their course should contact museum curator Craig Barclay as early as possible in the planning for the course so that we can avoid timetable clashes with other departments.
At postgraduate level museum staff are heavily involved in teaching for the MA in Museum and Artefact Studies providing training in museum skills such as object handling, moving and packing, documentation and marketing and publicity for exhibitions. Students on this course have the option to choose the Museum Communication module which involves the creation of an entire museum exhibition for either the Oriental Museum or the Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology. Museum staff provide full support for this project ranging from assistance with research to object selection, photography and creation of graphics and publicity materials.
From 2010/11 staff will also be providing object handling training for MA in Archaeology students taking a new research option based on the museum collections (see below).
Every year the museums lends around 60 objects from our collections to the Department of Archaeology for the MA in Museum and Artefact Studies and 20-30 objects for the use of students studying for the MA in the Conservation of Archaeological and Museum objects. These objects are used by students as the subject of practical and research projects over the course of the academic year.
Our collections are currently being used by students studying at Masters and PhD level in Durham and at universities around the world. Museum staff are happy to provide information on the collections, supply publication quality images, and arrange for research visits. If you are interested in using our collections for your research, please read refer to our guidance for researchers.
- GuidelinesforResearchersatDurhamUniversityMuseums.pdf (last modified: 27 March 2012)
As with requests for teaching, please contact us as early as possible in the planning of your project so that we can plan staff time to support your research in with that of other researchers.
Beginning in 2010/11 the Oriental Museum will be working with the Department of Archaeology to run a new module within the MA in Archaeology in which students will undertake a research project based on an individual object in the museum collections. Up to 20 Masters students will be spending 3 hours a week in the museum over two terms preparing an indepth report on a museum object. It is hoped that the results of this work will be published on this website.
Gandharan Sculpture Project
The ancient kingdom of Gandhara was situated in the area of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Due to Gandhara's geographical location, in the early first Millennium CE it was known as the Crossroads of Asia. Under the patronage of the Kushan Emperors the region was a melting pot of cultural influences and Gandhara's sculpture integrated aspects of South Asian religious philosophies, such as Buddhism, with elements of Hellenistic and Greco-Roman design. This intermingling of traditions was romanticised and attracted much interest in early European scholarship, and Gandharan sculpture became a very collectable commodity, especially with Colonial officials.
The Oriental Museum houses over sixty fragments of Gandharan sculpture, including Buddha statues and narrative reliefs of the life of the Buddha. Since Spring 2010 the Oriental Museum has been working with Durham's Department of Archaeology on a project to research, promote and exhibit this collection to a wider audience. Christopher Davis, Jennifer Tremblay, Jo Shoebridge and Setsuko Cornish - research postgraduates who specialise in South Asian studies - have met weekly at the museum to catalogue all of the Gandharan sculpture in detail. The descriptions created by the group are being used to update the existing records in the museum's database. Once the cataloguing is finished, a website for the project will be created so that this information is also available to the public. The research will inform new displays of South Asian material, due to be created in the museum in 2013.
The museums provide work experience placements for Masters and PhD students from Durham and other universities in the UK and overseas who wish to pursue a career in museums. During 2009/10 the museums provided 26 Masters students from Durham and Newcastle Universities with work placements. These students completed 1550 hours of work in the museums.
In addition to this the museum is currently providing volunteer opportunities for a number of PhD students, members of the public and undergraduates on an ongoing basis.
If you are interested in work experience, please contact Collections Manager Helen Armstrong.