Whilst our collections cover an enormous range of cultures, the Durham University Museums have only a small curatorial staff. At present we have staff who can help you with the identification of Greek and Roman material, Ancient Egyptian objects and coins and medals of all periods. We do NOT currently have a specialist curator of Asian objects.
Bearing this in mind, if you are interested in obtaining an identification for an object, you are welcome to contact the museums or to bring your object in and leave it for one of our staff to look at.
The identification can include (depending on the individual object):
- what the object is
- the material it is made from
- a rough estimate as to the age
- what it may have been used for
- how it got to the location where you found it, or how it was formed or made
We cannot give an object's value - this is only an identification, not an appraisal.
Below are links to some larger museums in the UK that may have staff who can assist you with objects from other cultures:
British Museum for world art and archaeology.
British Library for manuscripts and seal impressions.
Victoria & Albert Museum for sculpture, costume, furniture and woodwork.
Natural History Museum for fossil, human and animal remains.
Museum of English Rural Life, at Reading University for rural history.
Royal Armouries for arms and armour.
Museum of London for the history of London.
College of Arms for heraldic research.
The National Archives for family history.
For Museums around the UK on the web, try 24 Hour Museums.
If you find an archaeological object:
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public. Every year thousands of objects of archaeological interest are found mostly by metal detector users, although many are also discovered by people engaged in daily activities such as gardening or walking.
In the North-East region the Finds Liaison Officer is employed by Durham County Council.
For more information, please see the Durham County Council website.
What should you do if you think we can help you?
If you are unsure whether or not our staff can help you, it is often advisable to send us a photograph via email so that we can let you know whether or not it is worth bringing the object in for us to look at in more detail. Please also provide as much information about the object as you can, including, if possible, a detailed description, and the exact location where it was found or bought.
The email addresses for the two museums are -
firstname.lastname@example.org (Old Fulling Mill)
If you want to bring your object for our staff to look at:
- Please write down as much information about the object and its history as you can, including, if possible, the exact location where it was found or bought.
- Bring your object to the Oriental Museum or the Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology during normal opening hours.
- Speak to the staff at the reception desk and tell them that you have an object for identification.
- The staff member will fill out our Object Receipt form and you will receive a copy to keep as your receipt.
- The staff member will take the object and any accompanying information you have and pass it to the relevant member of curatorial staff.
- We will contact you by phone or email when the identification is complete.
Identifications take on average two to six weeks. Once identified, you may pick up your object(s). Please bring your paperwork with you.
Please DO NOT post any items to the museums. We cannot accept any responsibility for loss or damage of any object that is posted to us.
Object Identification Policy
As at June 2009
Durham University Museum staff can provide a basic IDENTIFICATION of an object, to the best of our abilities and knowledge. We will not provide authentication or appraisal of an object's value or condition.
We only identify items in specific areas of staff expertise.
We may not always be able to identify an item, and reserve the right to refuse to accept or identify an object at any time at our discretion.
Objects must be left at the museum in order to be identified; curatorial staff cannot identify objects in person in the galleries.
- You will be given a receipt that you must use to reclaim your object(s).
- Identifications take on average 2-6 weeks.
- You will receive a phone call or email when your item(s) has been identified. You may then pick up your item. Please bring a copy of your paperwork with you.
- Items left over sixty (60) days after this notification has been sent may be thrown away unless other arrangements are made.
Donations of objects to the museum's collections are not automatically accepted.
- Objects offered for donation to the museum's collections must go through a separate evaluation process.
- Objects given to or left at the museum may be thrown away.
- There is a difference between donations to the museum's permanent collections and the Education Collection. Please ask for an explanation if you have questions about donations.
We do not mark, sample, destroy, or perform any other type of action beyond the normal handling required for visible observation of objects brought in for identification.
Objects will remain at the Old Fulling Mill Museum of Archaeology or the Oriental Museum while they are being identified and will not be taken to any other part of the University for identification or work by others.
Disclaimer: While the museum makes every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of objects left for identification, the owner accepts full responsibility for the action of leaving the object(s) for identification and will hold the museum blameless in case of damage or loss. The owner is responsible for reclaiming the object within sixty (60) days of receiving notification of the results of the identification. The museum reserves the right to dispose of objects not claimed within sixty days following notification, unless other arrangements are made.
Neither Durham University or individual members of staff can accept liability for opinions given on objects submitted for examinations, or for information provided. We cannot give valuations and do not provide certificates of authenticity.