The Oriental Museum is undergoing a major redevelopment programme. Our aim is to completely refurbish all of our permanent galleries by the end of 2015 so that we can transform the experience we offer to visitors. We will use this page to post regular updates on our progress.
Your input and support are enormously important to us. If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the redevelopment programme, please email as at email@example.com . If you would like to support the redevelopment of the Oriental Museum you can now donate online. Or why not join the Friends of the Oriental Museum and be the first to see the new galleries as they open?
For more indepth information use the links below to download the newsletter 'Updating the Oriental Museum' sent out regularly to our Friends.
- Friends Update February 2013 (last modified: 5 March 2013)
- Friends Update March 2012 (last modified: 3 April 2012)
- Friends Update October 2012 (last modified: 26 October 2012)
- Friends Update September 2010 (last modified: 4 November 2011)
- Friends Update January 2011 (last modified: 4 November 2011)
- Friends Update July 2011 (last modified: 4 November 2011)
- Friends Update November 2011 (last modified: 4 November 2011)
New temporary displays now open
Following building work during April and May, level 2 of the museum has now reopened to the public.
Old displays relating to the Islamic World, Buddhism and Hinduism from level 1 of the museum and displays from level 2 relating to Japan and South East Asia were all removed to storage. Specialist staff and equipment were then used to move some of the largest objects in the museum's collection. This included creating a new mount for the amazing set of 17th century Burmese balcony panels which are one of the treasures of the South East Asian collection. These panels can now be appreciated from below as they were intended to be viewed.
New displays relating to the Near and Middle East, Japan, South Asia and South Asia have been created which are intended to give a flavour of these collections while further work continues. Level 1 of the museum is currently being used for our Cultural Olympiad exhibition, Made in China. In early 2013 work will then begin to install new state of art display cases for permanent displays relating to Japan and Korea.
Focus on Japan and Korea
Work is now underway to create new Japanese and Korean galleries at the Oriental Museum. These are due to open to the public in autumn 2013. To acheive this we need to undertake our most ambitious gallery project to date.
The current Japanese gallery is situated on level 2 of the Museum. Much of this material needs to move up to level 1. At the same time our displays relating to the Islamic World and South Asia need to move down to level 2. These displays include some of the largest and most difficult to move objects in our collections. Moving them around will mean some gallery closures during April and May 2012. However, there will also be the opportunity for visitors to watch staff undertaking conservation and creating new displays.
The timetable for April and May 2012 is
16th April - India and Tibet displays (level 1) close to allow conservation of the Burmese panels. Some material will be moving to level 2 meaning that small sections of level 2 will be closed for short periods of time between 16-27th April.
18 May - Japan and South East Asia displays (level 2) will close to allow for installation of the Burmese panels in their new location
25 May - Islamic World displays (level 1) will close and be moved to a new location
29 May - new interim displays for Japan, South Asia, South East Asia and Islamic World will open on level 2 completing the current phase of work.
New Chinese gallery now open
The Oriental Museum is home to one of the finest collections of Chinese antiquities in the UK. In March 2011 we opened our refurbished Marvels of China gallery, designed to introduce visitors to the wonders of this amazing culture. Since then staff have been working on our second Chinese gallery which has been renamed the Malcolm MacDonald Gallery in honour of one our our most important benefactors.
The ceramics collected by politician and diplomat, the Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald, form one of the key elements of the Chinese collection. Covering almost 5000 years of history, from the Neolithic Period to the 20th century, these magnificent ceramics will form the back-bone of the new gallery opening in November 2011.
MacDonald, son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, first visited the Far East in 1929 when, as a recently elected MP, he attended a conference in Kyoto. Already a connoisseur and collector of English pottery, MacDonald's post-conference travels through Korea, China and Manchuria opened his eyes to the wonders of Chinese ceramics. It was on this visit that he made his first purchases.
In 1946 MacDonald returned to the Far East as a senior diplomat and began to collect Chinese ceramics in earnest. In 1955 he was appointed as High Commissioner to India. Reluctant to move his Chinese ceramics to India, MacDonald turned his attention to finding a museum in the UK which would be willing to accept his collection on loan. His search led him to Durham's recently formed School of Oriental Studies.
The MacDonald collection arrived in Durham in 1956, initially on the basis of a 5-year loan agreement. MacDonald did not however stop collecting, and almost as soon as the collection arrived in Durham he began to add pieces with the aim of creating a fully comprehensive Chinese ceramic teaching collection. Happily, the museum was able to acquire the complete collection in 1969 and the new gallery will honour MacDonald's ambition by including a comprehensive survey of Chinese ceramics throughout history.
Occupying a whole floor of the museum, the completely refurbished gallery also includes ancient jades, bronze weapons and religious artefacts that reflect the other strengths of the museum's Chinese collections.
Visitors will see models made for burial in ancient tombs, fine porcelain created for the Imperial court, an ancient iron horse and exquisitely carved jade ornaments.
New Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt
The new Wolfson Gallery of Ancient Egypt opened on Saturday 23rd July 2011.
The gallery has been designed with children in mind, both families and the thousands of school children who visit the museum each year to learn about Ancient Egypt. Children will be able to dress up as Ancient Egyptians or have a go at playing a giant version of the Egyptian game senet. There are drawers to open and displays at lower levels to make it easier for smaller visitors to see the objects.
The gallery is not just for children. The Oriental Museum has by far the largest, and finest, Ancient Egyptian collection in the North East and opening this gallery triples the number of objects on public display. Visitors can see objects ranging from exquisite jewellery to pieces of ancient bread, preserved in a tomb for more than 2000 years.
Teachers can now make bookings for the new gallery for sessions from September 2011 onwards. For more information, see the 4 schools website.
Updating the Chinese galleries at the Oriental Museum
The updated Marvels of China gallery is now open to the public.
This gallery introduces vistiors to the wonders of this ancient culture. Accessible displays, designed with families and younger visitors in mind, cover topics ranging from festivals to families, silk to scholars. The gallery also includes two activity zones with dressing up, 'please touch' exhibits, creative activities for kids and a comfy sofa for the grown ups.
The centre piece of the gallery is the museums' famous Chinese bed. Museum staff have created a new 'room' for the bed and have worked with members of the Embroiderers Guild to create a set of replica hangings and bedding for the bed so that visitors can gain a better understanding of how the bed might have looked when it was in use. Other highlights include beautiful Ming dynasty ceramics, delicately carved ivory and an ancient carved jade burial mask.
Meanwhile, down on Level 3 work is continuing on the development of this gallery. Existing cases are being refurbished and relit and new cases for the centre of the gallery are due to arrive in late May. In contrast to Marvels of China, which takes a thematic approach to Chinese culture, this gallery will survey Chinese history from the Neolithic Period to modern times. We hope to open this gallery in November 2011.
All of this is being made possible by a grant from the Museum, Libraries and Archive Council's Designation Development Fund.
Upgrading visitor facilities
We have now completed the total redesign of the shop, café and reception space at the Oriental Museum to help visitors orient themselves when they enter the building, enjoy a coffee and cake and make that special purchase in the shop! We welcome feedback from visitors on the new facilities. Please let us know what you think and help us to continue to improve.
Over the next two years we will also be investing in a new wheelchair for visitors to use in the museum and extra seating, including portable stools that you can carry round with you. The wheelchair and the portable stools are now in place (May 2011).