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Object identification

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, Korean objects, British archaeology and social history, and coins and medals of all periods. 

You can download our Object Identification Policy from this page (see box on right-hand side).

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 specific types of object:

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 address for the museum is

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 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.

Discover our collections

Search Durham collections using our new online database. Explore items from the Museum of Archaeology that aren't on display.

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